Italy and Portugal battling for a place in Qatar? The two European behemoths are holding their breath before the draw for the 2022 World Cup play-offs this Friday (5 p.m.), which could oppose them, or even reserve Ibrahimovic’s Sweden or Lewandowski’s Poland.
Thrill guaranteed in Zurich, where Fifa will proceed both to the draw for the European dams, scheduled for the end of March, but also, in the wake of the draw for the intercontinental dams which will issue the last two tickets to reach the bar of the 32 qualified countries, in next june.
For Europe, ten places have already found takers but three tickets remain to be filled among the twelve late selections who have failed to finish at the top of their qualifying group. And Italy and Portugal, the last two European champions, are part of it, which promises unusually high oppositions for this catch-up session.
To see Qatar (November 21-December 18, 2022), the play-offs will have to win in the spring (March 24 and 29) one of three mini-tournaments with four played in dry matches, with semi-finals then final, a perilous format that 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 defender Leonardo Bonucci.
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Traumatized Italy, Experienced Portugal
Second in her group behind Switzerland, the « Nazionale»Recalls today the trauma of four years ago, when Sweden had blocked his way to the World Cup in Russia during the play-offs, then played in another format, in two-way duels.
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.
The two cadors have the assurance of playing their semi-final at home, thanks to their status as a top hat team. A second draw will determine the host team for each of the three « finals« .
Ibra « and »LewyIn scarecrows
In this context, the Nazionale and the Seleçao can meet in the final … or fall on another selection broken at this level, like Sweden, which should be able to count on the return of its talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic (40 years old).
« IbraIs one of the big scarecrows of this draw, as well as the Polish striker Robert Lewandowski, star of Bayern Munich and scorer of eight goals in the playoffs.
It remains to be seen how the twelve teams will be distributed among the three « lanes»Of dams giving access to Qatar: Poland appearing in the second hat, like Austria, the Czech Republic, Ukraine, Turkey and modest North Macedonia, it is a potential adversary from the half for the Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Russia and Sweden, all seeded.
Once the European balls have been taken from the hat, Fifa will proceed to another draw, that of the intercontinental dams, much less tense because the identity of the selections concerned is not yet known.
It will be a question of opposing two to two four teams: the one that will finish fifth in the South America zone, the fourth team in Central and North America, the victorious team of a pre-jump-off in the Asia zone, and the winning team of the Oceania zone qualifications.
The opponents thus determined will face each other in June, in a dry match and on neutral ground, dreaming of the last two tickets to Qatar.