FIFA said, thirteen nations will represent Europe at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™. Denmark and Germany are confirmed among them and will be joined by the remaining eight group winners. The ten runners up will enter the 12-team European playoffs. The remaining two spots in these will be taken by the best two 2020/21 UEFA Nations League group winners who did not finish in their section’s top two in the Qatar 2022 preliminaries. France and Spain, therefore, are guaranteed a playoff place if they do not finish first or second in their respective groups.
The progress of the various teams so far;
Italy and Belgium have already been assured of top-two finished in Groups C and E respectively. If France and Spain achieve the same, Wales, Austria and Czech Republic will all reach the playoffs (either Wales or Czech Republic will finish runners-up in Group E and the other will qualify via the above ranking.
Mario Coluna, Jose Augusto, Antonio Simoes and Eusebio formed a fearsome side, so too did Rui Costa, Luis Figo and Joao Pinto, but it’s hard to argue against Portugal now having their best-ever team. They won UEFA EURO 2016 and the 2018/19 UEFA Nations League, and call on the likes of Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Diogo Jota, Joao Felix and Cristiano Ronaldo. And though Fernando Santos’s troops have dropped just two points, in a 2-2 draw in Belgrade, this section will be settled, regardless of the outcome of their contest away to Republic of Ireland, by a showdown with Serbia in Lisbon. Dragan Stojkovic has at his disposal Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Mitrovic and, in Dusan Vlahovic, one of the hottest prospects and most on-song players on the continent.
Spain are already assured of a spot in the European playoffs, but they will be desperate to avoid those stormy waters by clinching top spot. The heavily-rotated Roja are, however, sitting uncomfortably in second. Victor Lindelof, Emil Forsberg, Alexander Isak and Sweden are top, and in terms of morale-boosts heading into the final two rounds, it doesn’t get much better than the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. If the Swedes and Spaniards win in Batumi and Athens respectively, it will come down to a Seville showdown in which a point would do for the visitors. Greece, meanwhile, must beat Spain and hope for a favour from Sweden to reach the playoffs.
Italy’s ride has been euphoric since the national nadir of missing a first World Cup since Sweden 1958. They conquered a first UEFA EURO crown in 53 years in July and went on to set a world-record undefeated streak of 37 games. Yet Gianluigi Donnarumma, Marco Verratti and Co are in danger of having to go through the dreaded playoffs. If Yann Sommer, Xherdan Shaqiri, Breel Embolo and Co can snatch Switzerland a first win over Gli Azzurri since 1993, the pool’s ticket to Qatar will be theirs to lose.
France will, barring a seismic collapse, slide through in first, but who will reach the playoffs? Lukas Hradecky and Teemu Pukki believe Finland’s assignment in Zenica is a must-win one ahead of the visit of the reigning world champions. Miralem Pjanic, Edin Dzeko and Bosnia and Herzegovina will then go up against Oleksandr Zinchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko, Roman Yaremchuk and Ukraine in what could answer the aforementioned question.
Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku know that, realistically, 2022 will be Belgium’s golden generation’s last chance to lift the World Cup trophy, and they effectively need just a point at home to Estonia to get to Qatar. The scrap to make the playoffs is delicately poised and could come down to goal difference. Will Tomas Soucek, Patrik Schick and Czech Republic be celebrating, or will Aaron Ramsey, Daniel James and Gareth Bale edge Wales closer to a first World Cup since 1958.