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European World Cup playoffs analysis

European World Cup 2018 playoffs 1st legs: team news, head-to-head, and odds

November 7, 2017 By Ali M.
Eight countries will battle it out for four remaining spots. Here's everything you need to know about the first-leg match-ups.

The international break is finally here. While fans will be disappointed to see play halt in Europe’s major leagues, there will be something exciting to watch for footballer lovers: the 2018 European World Cup playoffs.

The eight best second-placed teams in Europe will go head-to-head for UEFA’s four remaining tickets to Russia: Those counties are Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Ireland, and Greece.

Here's everything you need to know.

What are the matchups?

Northern Ireland, Switzerland, Croatia, Greece, Denmark, Republic of Ireland, Sweden, Italy, European World Cup playoffs, 2018 World Cup, World Cup qualifying

What are their FIFA world rankings?

  • Switzerland: 11
  • Italy: 15
  • Croatia: 18
  • Denmark: 19
  • Northern Ireland: 23
  • Sweden: 25
  • Republic of Ireland: 26
  • Greece: 47

Who are the key players absent? 

Ireland’s hopes of making it through have been rocked by the absence of James McCarthy. The Everton midfielder has been omitted from the squad due to a hamstring injury. He will be joined by Seán Maguire on the sidelines, who also picked up a hamstring injury.

Denmark has their own worries. Defenders Simon Kjaer and Henrik Dalsgaard have been ruled out, while Nicloai Jorgensen is a huge doubt after fracturing his wrist.

Head to head

Croatia vs Greece

Croatia wins: 1

Draws: 3

Greece wins: 2

Northern Ireland vs Switzerland

Northern Ireland wins: 2

Draws: 1

Switzerland wins: 1

Sweden vs Italy

Sweden wins: 6

Draws: 6

Italy wins: 10

Denmark vs Ireland

Denmark wins: 3

Draws: 5

Ireland wins: 5

Key facts

  • Greece has qualified for the last two World Cups courtesy of the playoffs.
  • Northern Ireland could qualify for back-to-back major tournaments for the first time in their history.
  • The last time Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, Sweden was the host nation.
  • Ireland won their last two meetings with Denmark by a combined score line of 7-0. 

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