Everything to know ahead of the World Cup 2022 play-offs

One of Italy or Portugal will miss out on this year’s World Cup, Poland receive a bye after Russia were kicked out and Wales’ clash with Ukraine is postponed: Everything to know with the play-offs now just two weeks away

  • World Cup action is set to resume with the play-offs now just two weeks away 
  • British duo Wales and Scotland are still to secure a spot in this year’s tournament 
  • Scotland’s play-off clash against Ukraine has been postponed until June
  • Portugal, Italy and Sweden are the other high-profile teams battling it out 
  • Latest World Cup news, including live action and breaking updates 

The qualification process for this Winter’s World Cup in Qatar continues as the European play-offs get underway in two weeks’ time.  

There are still 11 teams fighting for the three remaining European spots, with one of Euro 2020 champions Italy or Portugal guaranteed to miss out on a place.

British duo Wales and Scotland are also yet to confirm their qualification, though the latter will have to wait until June to play their play-off fixture against Ukraine, with the game postponed due to the ongoing Russian invasion. 

World Cup action continues this month as the European play-off fixtures get underway

Russia meanwhile have been removed from the play-offs, with Poland – who they were set to play – refusing to play the fixture in Moscow scheduled for later this month, with fellow Path B sides Sweden and Czech Republic following suit. 

England are among the 10 European teams to have qualified for the tournament, while Brazil, Argentina, South Korea, Iran and hosts Qatar are the non-European outfits also confirmed. 

We’ll know 12 of the 13 European qualifiers by the end of March, however, with the play-off semi-finals and finals set to take place imminently. 

With that in mind, Sportsmail takes you through everything you need to know about the upcoming World Cup play-offs.  

The draw for the play-offs took place late in November, comprised of the 10 runners-up from the qualification groups, as well as the two best group winners from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League overall rankings, who had not already qualified or finished in second in their respective World Cup group.

The nations – of which six are seeded – were split three paths, each containing a semi-final and final clash, with the seeded side playing the semi-final at home.  

Path A

  • Semi-final 1: Scotland vs Ukraine
  • Semi-final 2: Wales vs Austria
  • Final: Wales or Austria vs Scotland or Ukraine

Path B 

  • Semi-final 1: Russia vs Poland (cancelled, Poland given a bye)
  • Semi-final 2: Sweden vs Czech Republic
  • Final: Poland vs Sweden or Czech Republic

Path C

  • Semi-final 1: Italy vs North Macedonia
  • Semi-final 2: Portugal vs Turkey
  • Final: Portugal or Turkey vs Italy or North Macedonia

When are the matches being played? 

Aside from Scotland vs Ukraine, which as stated has been postponed until June, the semi-final clashes will all take place on Thursday, March 24, with each match kicking off at 7.45pm. 

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The winners of each one-legged game will progress to the final where they will meet the other victor from their respective path. These matches will all take place on Tuesday, March 29. 

Semi-finals

  • Scotland vs Ukraine – Postponed until June
  • Wales vs Austria – Thursday, March 24 at 7.45pm
  • Sweden vs Czech Republic – Thursday, March 24 at 7.45pm
  • Italy vs North Macedonia – Thursday, March 24 at 7.45pm
  • Portugal vs Turkey – Thursday, March 24 at 7.45pm
  • Play-off finals: Tuesday, March 29

Ukraine lodged a request to push back their Scotland match after their country was invaded

Wales’ World Cup play-off semi-final tie against Austria will go ahead as planned this month

The impact of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine 

Russian’s bloody invasion of Ukraine has had a drastic impact on the World Cup play-offs, with the former removed entirely from the competition, while the latter’s clash against Scotland has been postponed until June. 

FIFA initially had other ideas, however, stating Russia would be able to play in the play-offs – though with the caveat they would be playing under the name ‘Football Union of Russia (RFU)’, without spectators, flags or national anthems. 

The decision was then reversed after Poland – who have since been given a bye – refused to play against Russia, alongside fellow Path B nations Sweden and Czech Republic.  

Scotland’s game against Ukraine was set to be played at Hampden Park, have announced their intention to instead play a ‘replacement fixture’ on March 24, while tickets purchased for the fixture will remain valid for the rescheduled clash.     

Russia have been thrown out of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar by FIFA 

FIFA (pictured, president Gianni Infantino left) have suspended Russia until further notice after Russian president Vladimir Putin (centre) ordered an invasion of Ukraine last week

Fellow Path A nations Wales and Austria will still play their March 24 clash, however. 

If the game had been postponed, it may have been pencilled in for the international window in June – which FIFA describe as being ‘already congested’.

But with Wales’ game staying put, manager Robert Page would be forced to wait several months before knowing who they will face next in their attempt to secure a spot in Qatar later this year, provided they beat Austria.

It is believed that talks are already underway to work out a new date for Scotland and Ukraine to play each other, with a period in June identified as the ‘likely’ option.

As it stands, Nations League games will also take place around the same time.

The play-off final may then be held shortly after, although Wales would need to find room in their packed schedule with several matches already in place.

How can you watch the fixtures? 

All of the impending World Cup play-off clashes will be broadcast live on Sky Sports.

Customers will be able to stream the action via the app on their mobile, tablet or computer device.  

You can also buy a Sky Sports Day Pass from Now for £9.98, which also includes a six-month Mobile Month Membership.    

Sportsmail will also be covering the matches live, so you can keep up-to-date with us.   

Who has qualified from Europe?  

As stated, the 10 group winners from the initial group stages have already qualified for the tournament in Qatar. 

The first side to confirm their qualification was Germany, who were one of the most dominant nations throughout as they won nine of their 10 games to top Group J with ease. 

England qualified for the World Cup with an emphatic 10-0 win over San Marino, with Harry Kane scoring four

They were swiftly followed by Denmark, another nation who won nine of their 10 outings, while England remained unbeaten throughout as they emerged comfortable winners in Group I.

Elsewhere, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Netherlands and Croatia all confirmed their spots in Qatar.  

When is the World Cup and how will it work?  

The first-ever winter World Cup will take place between November 21 and December 18 with a total of 32 teams – initially split into eight groups of four – competing for the grand prize.

There is the small matter of the draw beforehand, which takes place in just over three weeks’ time on April 1. 

The group stages will begin on November 21 and will run for 12 days, with four matches being played on each. 

The World Cup final will be held at the 80,000-capacity Lusail Stadium on December 18

Typically, the top two teams from each group will progress to the round of 16. There won’t be any best third-place teams progressing to the knockouts. There will however be a third-place play-off taking place. 

The group stages will come to an end on December 2, with the round of 16 then played from December 3-6. 

The quarter-finals will then take place from December 9-10, before the semi-finals are played on December 13 and 14. 

The final of the 2022 World Cup will take place on Sunday, December 18.  




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