Monday, 17 January, 2022
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Italy, Portugal in same World Cup play-off bracket

Italy, Portugal in same World Cup play-off bracket

European champions Italy and Portugal could meet for a place at the 2022 World Cup after being drawn in the same play-off path on Friday.

The Azzurri and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal both finished second in their qualifying groups, behind Switzerland and Serbia respectively.

Italy will host North Macedonia in the play-off first round in March, with Turkey visiting Portugal, before the winners face off for a spot at next year's finals in Qatar.

The draw means that one of the last two European Championship winners will not be at the next World Cup. Portugal won the Euro 2016 title.

The winners of Portugal's match with Turkey will host the final-round game in Path C.

"It's a very difficult draw for us," said Italy coach Roberto Mancini. Elsewhere in the playoffs, British rivals Wales and Scotland could play each other in the final of Path A.

Scotland will welcome Ukraine to Glasgow in their semi-final game. Wales take on Austria in Cardiff, with the winners to have home advantage in the final.

The Welsh are hoping to play in the global showpiece for the first time in 64 years, while Scotland have not qualified since 1998.

Russia face Poland in the Path B semi-finals, with the winners to host Sweden or the Czech Republic.

The Russians, who reached the 2018 quarter-finals as the host nation, have only ever lost one World Cup qualifier at home -- against Germany in 2009.