Only one of the past two European champions — Italy and Portugal — will be qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2022 after they were drawn in the same playoffs bracket on Friday. The current Euro title-holders Italy will face North Macedonia at home in a playoff semifinal next March and the winner will play away at either Portugal or Turkey for a spot in the World Cup. Only of the four teams will make their way in the next year’s tournament in Qatar. 

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup — losing in the playoffs to Sweden — and now will likely have to beat Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal to avoid missing the tournament for a second straight time. Portugal has always qualified during Ronaldo’s career. He first played at the 2006 World Cup.

Also Read | Journalists’ detention kicks up Qatar- Norway diplomatic row

Portugal faced a similar predicament ahead of the 2014 World Cup when they had to face Sweden in the qualifiers. Ronaldo scored four goals over two legs to lead Portugal into the grand tournament.

Meanwhile, in the 12-team draw, Scotland will face Ukraine at home, and the winner will play in Wales or Austria in the final of their bracket.

Also Read | World Cup 2022 host Qatar spied on FIFA with help of ex-CIA officer

Russia will host Poland for the right to face Sweden or the Czech Republic in their bracket final. Russia or Poland will host the final.

The six playoff semifinals will be played as single-leg elimination games March 24. The three finals are played five days later.

The three winners will complete Europe’s entry of 13 nations in the 32-team lineup in Qatar.

Also Read | Which teams have qualified for FIFA World Cup 2022?

FIFA will make the tournament draw on April 1 in Doha.

The playoffs feature the 10 teams who finished second in their qualifying groups along with two teams — Austria and the Czechs — who won Nations League groups last year.

With inputs from the Associated Press