Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal aren’t going to have it easy in the World Cup Qualification playoffs in March, with just three qualification places up for grabs between 12 nations.
Roberto Mancini’s Azzurri failed to book their place at the tournament automatically as they drew 0-0 away to Northern Ireland on Monday, leaving Switzerland to claim top spot and qualify.
Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Croatia, England, and Germany have all already confirmed their participation at the tournament, with Qualification groups D, E, and G still to be wrapped up.
That means that Portugal, Sweden, Italy, Wales, the Czech Republic, Scotland, Austria, Russia, Poland, and North Macedonia have already confirmed their respective playoff places, and they could be joined by either Finland or Ukraine from Group D, or Netherlands, Turkey or Norway from Group G.
The sides will be split into two pots for the November 26 draw, with the six highest-ranking teams from the groups going into pot one as seeded sides. Italy and Portugal will be among the seeded sides, meaning they cannot meet in the semi-final stage of the playoffs.
The playoffs will be split into three paths – A, B, and C. Each path will consist of semi-finals and a final, meaning three teams from 12 will advance – one from each path.
Ukraine and Russia cannot play one another.