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Portugal, Italy draw same group for World Cup qualifier playoff

Portugal, Italy draw same group for World Cup qualifier playoff
Either Portugal and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo or Italy will miss the men's 2022 FIFA World Cup due to their placement in the same group in a European qualifier playoff. Photo by Antonio Cotrim/EPA-EFE

Nov. 26 (UPI) -- The men's 2022 FIFA World Cup will be without either Portugal or Italy after the countries were drawn in the same group Friday for a European playoff to secure spots in the prestigious soccer tournament.

The draw for the European qualifier took place in Zurich, Switzerland. Four other playoffs will be held around the world to fill the 32-team field for the 2022 World Cup. The World Cup is from Nov. 21 to Dec. 18 next year in Qatar.

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Italy and Portugal each failed to qualify for the World Cup through the group stage, prompting their placement in the playoff draw. Three of the 12 teams in the playoff will qualify for the World Cup.

Scotland, the No. 38 team in the FIFA World Ranking, faces No. 25 Ukraine in one of two Group A semifinals. No. 19 Wales battles No. 30 Austria in the other Group A semifinal. The winners of those matches face off in the Group A final for a spot in the World Cup.

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No. 34 Russia battles No. 27 Poland and No. 18 Sweden faces No. 31 Czech Republic in two Group B semifinals.

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Italy and Portugal were drawn in Group C. Italy, ranked No. 6, faces No. 67 North Macedonia in another semifinal. No. 8 Portugal and star striker Cristiano Ronaldo face No. 37 Turkey in the other Group C semifinal.

The semifinals are March 24 and the finals are March 29.

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Italy, a four-time World Cup winner, did not qualify for the 2018 World Cup, ending a streak of 14 consecutive World Cup appearances.

Portugal appeared in each of the last five World Cups. Ronaldo made his World Cup debut in 2006 with the national team of his native country.

The United States Men's National Team is in second place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifier standings. The Top 3 teams earn an automatic bid into the World Cup. The fourth-place team will play a playoff match to determine its World Cup fate on June 13 or 14 in Qatar.

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