2022 World Cup play-offs: Italy and Portugal tremble before the play-offs draw

The draw for the 2022 World Cup play-offs in the Europe zone will take place at 5 p.m. this Thursday. In Zurich, FIFA will proceed both to the draw for the European play-offs, scheduled for the end of March, but also in the wake of the draw for the intercontinental play-offs which will pit a team from Asia and another from Central America against each other next June. and from the North, a third from South America and finally a selection from Oceania. In Europe, three tickets remain to be filled for the twelve late selections who failed to finish at the top of their qualifying group.

To see Qatar (November 21 – December 18, 2022), they will have to win, at the end of March (March 24 and 29), one of three mini-tournaments with four played in dry matches, with semi-finals then final, a perilous format. which prohibits the slightest defeat. The tension has risen a notch, even among the reigning European champions, the Italians, who since their coronation in July have been overcome by the fear of not qualifying for the World Cup, as in 2018. .

« Unconsciously, something got stuck« , admitted the defender Leonardo Bonucci. Second in her group behind Switzerland, the » Nazionale « is now rehashing the trauma of four years ago, when Sweden had blocked her way to the World Cup in Russia during the play-offs, then played in another format, in two-way duels.

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« Ibra » and « Lewy » in scarecrows

Like Italy, Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal trembles before the draw, his morale being weighed down by the controversy around coach Fernando Santos. The Portuguese press designated him as N.1 responsible for the defeat against Serbia (2-1), on the last day, which condemned the winners of Euro-2016 to go through the dams. But Portugal has the experience of these meetings on a thread, having qualified in 2010 and 2014 by this way.

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The two cadors have the assurance of playing their semi-final at home, thanks to their status as a top hat team. But they can meet in the final … or fall on another selection broken at this level, like Sweden, quarter-finalist of the World Cup in 2018. If the « Blagul » (Blue and Yellow) disappointed during the ‘Euro, with an elimination in the eighth against Ukraine, it is a transformed team that should play in March, with the return of his talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic (40), injured last summer.

« Ibra » is one of the big scarecrows in this draw, as is Poland striker Robert Lewandowski, who scored eight goals in the qualifiers.

North Macedonia in Petit Poucet

The star of Bayern Munich is all the more afraid that his selection appears in the second hat, being therefore a potential opponent from the half for Italy or Portugal. Even outside, « we have enough good players to beat a great team in one game« , assured Poland coach Paulo Sousa of Portugal.

Robert lewandowski

Credit: Getty Images

This one would perhaps prefer to fall on a more modest seed, like Wales, which has not played in the World Cup since 1958, Russia, or Scotland, which did not shine at the Euro. Ukraine, Turkey and the Czech Republic, all in the second hat, also look with envy on these potential opponents, with the ambition to play the spoilsport of these « four-way finals ».

« It’s for the World Cup, we have to meet the (big) teams. It’s a challenge we will fight for« said Czech defender Jakub Brabec, who recalled that his selection beat Scotland in Glasgow during the Euro (2-0). Finally, North Macedonia, which discovered the Euro last summer but has never played in a World Cup, knocking on the door as well, with the status of Petit Poucet At this stage, all dreams are allowed.

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