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All you need to know about UEFA World Cup playoffs

2022 European World Cup playoffs: Here's everything you need to know as Portugal, Italy await their fate

November 18, 2021 By Ali M.
Three more slots are left, with the likes of Portugal, Italy, Sweden, Wales, and Poland entering the playoffs.

The curtains have closed on the European World Cup qualifiers, with the final group-stage fixtures having taken place on Sunday to Tuesday. Ten nations have secured automatic qualification for Qatar 2022, but the action is not yet over, as UEFA has three more slots to be filled via the dreaded playoffs.

A few heavyweights have dropped into this category, with Portugal and Italy being the standout names. As a result, this has left football fans across the globe wondering how the playoffs will work. With that in mind, here's everything you need to know about the upcoming round that will decide UEFA's final three participants in next year's FIFA World Cup.

Which teams have automatically qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup?

Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, and Switzerland have all qualified from Europe.

Outside of Europe, Qatar (the hosts), Brazil, and Argentina have secured their tickets.

Which nations entered the 2022 UEFA World Cup playoffs?

There are two routes into the playoffs. The first is by finishing as runners-up in a group in the European World Cup qualifiers. 10 nations secured their spots via this method. The final two spots went to the best group winners from the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall rankings that missed out on automatic qualification and a runners-up finish in UEFA's World Cup qualifying stage. With that out of the way, here are the 12 teams that entered the playoffs: 

Runners-up in the World Cup qualifiers: Italy, North Macedonia, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and Wales

Via the UEFA Nations League: Austria and the Czech Republic

When and where will the playoffs draw be held?

In Zurich, Switzerland on November 26 (Friday), 2021 at 11 a.m. ET.

How do the 2022 UEFA World Cup playoffs work?

The 12 teams will be drawn into three playoffs paths consisting of one-off semifinals and finals each. The three paths winners will qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

How does the UEFA World Cup playoffs draw work?

The 12 teams are split into two pots. Pot 1 consists of six seeded teams, meaning they will play the semifinals at home. Pot 2 consists of six unseeded nations. The teams with the most number of points get seeded. Here are the two pots ahead of this month's draw:

Pot 1 (Seeded)

  1. Portugal

  2. Scotland

  3. Italy

  4. Russia

  5. Sweden

  6. Wales

Pot 2 (Unseeded)

  1. Austria

  2. North Macedonia

  3. Turkey

  4. Poland

  5. Ukraine

  6. Czech Republic

Task one of the draw is to place the six seeded nations throughout the six semifinal slots, meaning the first team drawn takes the home position in semifinal 1, the second team drawn enters semifinal 2, and so on until the six best-ranked sides are allocated their positions.

Task two will be to determine the semifinal matchups for the six teams in Pot 2, with the first unseeded nation drawn entering semifinal 1 as the away side, the second nation drawn entering semifinal 2 as the visitors, and so on until the entire unseeded sides get paired against a seeded rival.

Semifinals 1 and 2 automatically make Path A in the playoffs, meaning the winners of these two penultimate games will face off in one of three one-off finals for a spot at Qatar 2022. Semifinals 3 and 4 make up Path B while Path C will consist of semifinals 5 and 6. Another draw will be held in order to decide which semifinal winners will get the home advantage in the finals.

When will the playoffs take place?

Playoff semi-finals: March 24, 2022

Playoff finals: March 29, 2022

*Kick-off times will be confirmed by UEFA after the draw.


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