Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal could face Italy in World Cup playoff showdown

Posted Wednesday, November 17, 2021 by ESPN

European champions Italy could face Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in a winner-takes-all World Cup playoff final in March.

Portugal and Italy, winners of the last two editions of the European Championship, failed to top their World Cup qualifying group, missing out to Serbia and Switzerland respectively.

It means both must enter the new playoff system, featuring 12 teams battling for three places at Qatar 2022, and while both are seeded in the semifinal draw they could be placed into the same path and play each other.

The playoff draw takes place in Zurich, Switzerland on Friday, Nov. 26, at 4 p.m. GMT, 11 a.m. ET.

SEEDED: Portugal, Scotland, Italy, Russia, Sweden, Wales
UNSEEDED: Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria, Czech Republic

The six seeded nations will be at home in the semifinals, which are one-legged ties to be played on March 24, and will be drawn to play one of the unseeded teams.

The teams will be randomly drawn in order, all seeded teams first, to automatically create the final ties:

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal could face Italy in World Cup playoff showdown
Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were beaten at home by Serbia in their final group qualifier. Zed Jameson/MB Media/Getty Images

Path A: winners of semifinal 1 vs. winners of semifinal 2
Path B: winners of semifinal 3 vs. winners of semifinal 4
Path C: winners of semifinal 5 vs. winners of semifinal 6

The home team in each of these final ties, to be played on March 29, will also be drawn on Nov. 26.

It means the 12 nations will know their two possible final opponents, and if both Italy and Portugal are drawn into the same path they face the prospect of playing each other -- and one will not make it to Qatar 2022.

The only restriction on the draw is that Russia and Ukraine cannot be drawn together for political reasons.

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