Italy and Portugal under pressure to draw the dams


Italy and Portugal will experience the steep road leading to Qatar on Friday during the draw for the 2022 World Cup play-offs in the Europe zone (5 p.m.), with the threat of a clash between them, or against Sweden fromIbrahimovic and Poland from Lewandowski.

In Zurich, Fifa will proceed both to the draw for European play-offs, scheduled for the end of March, but also in the wake of the draw for intercontinental play-offs which will pit, next June, a team from Asia, another from Central America. 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 on 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« recalls today the trauma of four years ago, when Sweden had blocked the road to the World Cup in Russia during the play-offs, then played in another format, in two-way duels.

« Ibra » and « Lewy » in scarecrows

Like Italy, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo trembles before the draw, his morale being weighed down by the controversies around the 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.

The two cadors have the assurance of playing their semi-final at home, thanks to their team status in the first hat.

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 from the eighth against Ukraine, it is a transformed team which should play in March, with the return of its talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic (40 years old) , 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 the coach of Poland, the Portuguese Paulo Sousa.

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 the 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 the World Cup, is also knocking on the door, with the status of Petit Poucet. At this stage, all dreams are still allowed.

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