Switzerland: And then there were three.
FIFA has locked some big European play-off matchups en route to the World Cup 2022, which is scheduled to be hosted by Qatar between November 21 and December 18.
Even though a personality like Cristiano Ronaldo deserves to be part of the premier event next year, potentially either his side Portugal or the UEFA Euro 2020 champions Italy or neither of the two will be able to book their place at the World Cup.
Portugal will take on Turkey, while Italy will meet North Macedonia. And the winner of the two matches will battle it out for the only spot in the Path C of the European play-offs. The winner of Path C will claim a World Cup berth and the loser will miss out on the tournament.
The international governing body of association football went one step further in adding spice to the European play-offs, with Wales and Scotland poised to meet each other in the Path A final.
For the match to take place, both Scotland and Wales need to beat Ukraine and Austria respectively. If that happens, a 44-year-old history chapter could open, when a penalty awarded to Scotland helped them beat Wales to qualify for the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
There is also a possibility of a showdown between Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic if Poland and Sweden outclass Russia and the Czech Republic, respectively, in the Path B matchups.
The six play-offs will take place as single-leg elimination games on March 24. The European playoffs feature 8 teams that finished second in the World Cup Qualifiers along with two teams – Austria and the Czech Republic – that won the Nations League groups.
The three finals will be played on March 29 and the three winners will complete the 13 European teams in the 32-team tournament in Qatar. FIFA will then announce the World Cup 2022 draw on April 1 in Doha.
Additionally, FIFA announced the intercontinental play-offs for places at the World Cup 2022. Lionel Messi’s Argentina alongside Brazil have already qualified for the World Cup through the Qualifiers, while Ecuador, which is on the cusp of joining them, are only three points separate Colombia, Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia in the fight for the automatic ticket to the World Cup and the intercontinental play-off berth.
The play-offs will be single-leg ties, which will take place at a neutral venue on June 13 and 14. Following the European draw, there will be a draw to determine the matchups between the four qualifiers from the four continents – AFC, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, OFC – that have reached the intercontinental playoffs.