Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will face an uphill battle in their playoffs for a spot at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar as they have been drawn in the same path as the Euro 2020 tournament champions, Italy.
Both teams will not be playing each other from the start, however. Italy will be facing North Macedonia, while Portugal will have to scale through the hurdle of Turkey. The winners of both matches will face each other for the sole qualifying spot in their path.
Portugal had a relatively good qualifying campaign until a late capitulation against Serbia in Lisbon sent them into second place for the playoffs. Italy, on the other hand, had an average campaign but managed to end up in second place for another chance to qualify in the playoffs.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to make his fifth World Cup appearance and as such will be taking his captain duties very seriously as ‘Os Navegadores’ prepare to crush the obstacles in their path.
Portugal’s potential qualification, however, will see the World Cup happen without the current Euro title holders.
Italy would have rather avoided Portugal, Mancini says
“It’s a very difficult draw for us,” Italy boss Roberto Mancini said immediately after the draw. “North Macedonia is a good team and, if we win, we have to play away to Turkey or Portugal in the final. It’s very strong.
“These are one-off games and there are always adversities. Just as we would have liked to have avoided Portugal, I think [Portugal] would have gladly avoided Italy.
“Will we get to the World Cup? We are always confident and positive; the most important thing will be to have all the players available.”
Portugal boss, Fernando Santos, however, is very confident about his team’s chances of making it to the World Cup. Speaking after the draw, the Portugal boss said: “I have complete confidence that we will be at the World Cup in Qatar.
“It’s not worth talking about Italy. We have to focus, first of all, on beating Turkey. This is the most important game for us in order to be in the [playoff] final and win that, which is our main objective. Regarding the draw, it is what it is, there’s no point in discussing it further.
“There were positive things, we will be playing at home and will have the opportunity to play in front of our fans if we reach the final.”
Full European World Cup qualifier paths
Portugal, Turkey, Italy and North Macedonia are in path C of the playoffs. The final of this path will be played at the home of either Portugal or Turkey.
Path A will see Scotland, Ukraine, Wales and Austria do battle. Scotland and Ukraine will take on each other, while Wales and Austria will battle it out for a way out of the path and into the World Cup finals in Qatar.
Russi will take on Poland, while Sweden will face Czech Republic in path B.