One of Portugal or Italy will not be at the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup as they have been drawn on the same path for the European World Cup play-offs. The two most recent European champions failed to secure automatic qualification for the World Cup from their respective groups and will now potentially slug it out for one ticket to Qatar.
2022 FIFA World Cup: Ronaldo, Portugal on collision course with Italy for World Cup berth
The European World Cup play-offs have pitted Portugal and Italy on the same path as Ronaldo faces missing fifth World Cup finals
The draws for the European play-offs were held in Zurich on Friday to determine the opponents for the twelve teams in the playoff rounds. Portugal, Sweden, Italy, Scotland, Wales, and Russia were all seeded while Turkey, Austria, North Macedonia, Poland, Ukraine, and the Czech Republic were unseeded for the draws.
There are three slots up for grabs for the football Mundial with winners from each semifinal facing each other according to their paths in a winner-takes-all final match.
The biggest talking point of the draw was the zoning of Portugal and Italy on the same path. Before a potential final match, both teams would have to negotiate semifinal matches against Turkey and North Macedonia respectively.
Fernando Santos' Portugal will take on Merih Demiral's Turkey in one of the semifinal ties while Roberto Mancini's Italy will welcome Goran Pandev's North Macedonia.
Barring any unforeseen upsets, the 2016 European champions (Portugal) would then take on current European champions (Italy) for a place in Qatar. Thus, it is a distinct possibility that five-time Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo might miss out on a fifth World Cup appearance if his side fails to win both matches.
Another interesting match-up for the European World Cup play-offs is a possible showdown between United Kingdom neighbours Scotland and Wales. Scotland will face Ukraine in a semifinal clash while Wales will slug it out with Austria for a berth at the final. Should both home countries win their semi-final fixtures, they will meet in the final to determine which country joins England at the World Cup finals.
The last path of the European World Cup play-offs seems to guarantee that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would appear at one more World Cup Mundial as his Sweden were drawn with last edition's beaten finalists Czech Republic. A victory in that match would set them up for a winnable final against Russia or Poland.
The semifinal playoff matches are scheduled to be held on 24th March 2022 while the final matches will hold on 29th March 2022.