Italy or Portugal will definitely miss World Cup
Europe's World Cup qualifier playoff draw was released Friday, with Italy and Portugal occupying the same group in the 12-team bracket.
Why it matters: The draw ensures that at least one of the world's eight best teams — and the winners of the past two European Championships — will be absent from the 2022 World Cup.
- Italy, which lost its qualifier playoff four years ago, has never missed consecutive World Cups. Before 2018, the only other time the Azzurri failed to qualify was in 1958.
- Portugal hasn't missed the World Cup since 1998, and Cristiano Ronaldo is a perfect three-for-three in major tournament playoffs (2010 and 2014 World Cups; Euro 2012).
How it works: 12 teams were drawn into three groups, or paths, of four. The winner of each path — comprising single-elimination semis and finals being played next March — qualifies for the World Cup.
- Path A: Scotland vs. Ukraine; Wales vs. Austria
- Path B: Russia vs. Poland; Sweden vs. Czech Republic
- Path C: Italy vs. North Macedonia; Portugal vs. Turkey
Go deeper: Final World Cup spots around the world (Sporting News)