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SportFootballPortugal, Italy drawn in same FIFA World Cup playoff bracket

Portugal, Italy drawn in same FIFA World Cup playoff bracket

Published: 27th Nov 2021 6:48 pm

Geneva: The World Cup in Qatar is sure to be without either Italy or Cristiano Ronaldo.
Italy and Portugal, the current and previous European champions, were drawn into the same qualifying playoff bracket on Friday, meaning at least one will fail to qualify for next year’s tournament.

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Italy will first face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semifinal next March, and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot at the World Cup. Four-time champion Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, missing the tournament for the first time since 1958 after losing in the playoffs to Sweden. Now, after winning Euro 2020 in July, it may have to beat Euro 2016 champion Portugal to avoid a second straight failure. “It’s not a great draw and it could have gone better,” Italy coach Roberto Mancini acknowledged.

“Just like we wanted to avoid Portugal, they would have wanted to avoid Italy.” Ronaldo has led Portugal to every World Cup since 2006 and this could be his last attempt at winning international soccer’s biggest trophy. He will turn 37 before next year’s tournament starts.

Ronaldo helped Portugal get through the playoffs for the 2014 World Cup, scoring a hat-trick in a 3-2 win over Sweden that featured an epic duel between superstars, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic netting twice for the Swedes. Also in the 12-team draw, Scotland will face Ukraine at home, and the winner will play at Wales or Austria in the final of their bracket.

Russia will host Poland for the right to face Sweden or the Czech Republic in their bracket final. Russia or Poland will host the final.

Scotland looks to end a 24-year wait to play at the World Cup while Wales’ only appearance was in 1958.

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