Thirteen European nations will play in the 2022 World Cup: the top ten in the qualifying groups (including Belgium) and three of … twelve play-offs. Contrary to what was done before, the play-offs must therefore win two matches against two different opponents (and no longer a double confrontation against the same opponent) to obtain their ticket for the World Cup.
By losing in the last minutes of the match against Serbia, Portugal got into a mess. Russia, which also lost the decisive match (against Croatia) in the last minutes, will also have to go through this dam which also threatens Italy and the Netherlands. To ensure their direct ticket, the reigning European champions will have to achieve as good a result against Northern Ireland as Switzerland, which hosts Bulgaria. As for the Netherlands, they will have to take at least one point against Norway to avoid going through the « dams » box or even risking a final elimination (in the event of a defeat against Norway while Turkey beats Montenegro).
The last verdicts will fall on Monday and Tuesday evenings, after which we will know the ten direct qualifiers, the ten « second in the group » who will access the dams and the two nations drafted via the Nations League …
Two dams in the Devils group
These two draft tickets will be reserved for the best group winners of the Nations League who have not already qualified through the playoffs. In League A, the four members of the Final Four (France, Spain, Italy and Belgium) are all guaranteed to be at least play-offs. But this is not the case for the group winners in League B: Wales, Austria, Czechia and Hungary.
Welsh and Czechs are battling for second place in the Devils group. However, they will play their last match without pressure since the one who fails in third place will be drafted via the Nations League. Only the Welsh have something to gain on Tuesday night: a seeded place for the play-offs (see below).
The other draft will therefore be Austria, who had the good idea to win their Nations League group with a little more authority than Hungary. Because it is this only criterion which allows the Austrians to be assured of playing in the play-offs next March, despite a sad fourth place in their qualifying group behind Denmark, Scotland and Israel.
Portugal will only be protected in the first play-off match
The six semi-finals of the play-offs will take place on March 24 and 25, while the three finals will take place on March 28 and 29. Six of the twelve play-offs will be « seeded » and will therefore have the assurance of not competing in the semi-finals of the play-offs. Portugal, who are currently the best runner-up in the group, will therefore be protected. Just like Russia, Switzerland and probably Poland.
On the other hand, there will be no seeded system in the final. We could thus find duels between great nations like Portugal, Italy or the Netherlands to which could be added the Sweden of Ibrahimovic and the Poland of Lewandowski. Enticing.