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Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

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)

Go deeper

Buckeyes headed back to the Rose Bowl

Ohio State takes the field at the 2019 Rose Bowl. Photo: Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated via Getty Images

The Ohio State Buckeyes will take their talents to southern California to compete in the Rose Bowl.

  • The team is missing out on the College Football Playoff following its loss to Michigan, but still earned a coveted spot in the Big Ten's top bowl game.
Updated 23 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Axios-Ipsos poll: Omicron's big numbersAnother wave of death — FDA limits use of Regeneron and Lilly antibody treatments — Fauci: "Confident" Omicron cases will peak in February.
  2. Vaccines: Pfizer begins clinical trial for Omicron-specific vaccine — The shifting definition of fully vaccinated.
  3. Politics: Biden admin withdraws temporary vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers — New York Supreme Court strikes down Gov. Hochul's mask mandate for public areas — Sarah Palin tests positive, delaying defamation trial — Virginia school boards sue Gov. Youngkin for lifting mask mandate.
  4. World: U.K. to lift travel testing requirement for fully vaccinated — Beijing Olympic Committee lowers testing threshold ahead of Games.
  5. Variant tracker

The Robinhood M&A rumor mill churns

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Robinhood's valuation is now just over $11 billion, a fraction of where it traded in August and below that of its last private round of funding. Cue the M&A mongers.

Why it matters: It's not just Robinhood—falling values of growth-oriented tech stocks have raised speculation that formerly high-flying fintechs could be snapped up by more well-capitalized buyers.