Italy or Portugal will miss out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after the two most recent European champions were drawn in the same play-off path.
Roberto Mancini led Italy to a Euro 2020 triumph earlier this year, yet the Azzurri failed to qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup, with Switzerland progressing instead.
Portugal, Euro 2016 winners, also fell short, finishing three points behind Serbia in Group A.
And now one of the heavyweights will fail to appear in Qatar, with both teams drawn together in Path C of the play-offs, which will take place in March.
Italy were drawn in a semi-final against minnows North Macedonia, who are aiming to make their first appearance at a World Cup, while Portugal will face Turkey.
Should they progress, Portugal will have home advantage in the Path C final to determine which team progresses to Qatar. While Cristiano Ronaldo could well be fighting to play in his final World Cup, the Azzurri will be aiming to avoid missing out on the tournament for a second successive time.
Path A threw up the possibility of Wales going up against Scotland for a place in the finals, should they overcome Austria and Ukraine, who went unbeaten in a qualifying group that also included reigning world champions France, respectively.
In Path B, Russia will host Poland and Sweden will play the Czech Republic.
The winner of Russia v Poland will host the Path B final.
The semi-finals are set for the European play-offs!
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) November 26, 2021
Play-offs draw in full
SF1 – Scotland v Ukraine
SF2 – Wales v Austria
F1 – Winner SF2 v Winner SF1
SF3 – Russia v Poland
SF4 – Sweden v Czech Republic
F2 – Winner SF3 v Winner SF4
SF5 – Italy v North Macedonia
SF6 – Portugal v Turkey
F3 – Winner SF6 v Winner SF5
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