Italy was held to a draw by Northern Ireland with a score of 0-0 in the last match of Group C of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers. At the same time Switzerland won 4-0 over Bulgaria.
These results put Switzerland as winners of Group C with 18 points and qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar. Temporary The Azzurri finished as runner-up with 16 points.
That means Italy must go through the play-offs which now have a new format. The teams fighting in the play-offs will have to play the semifinals and finals in March.
“We still have a good chance of qualifying. We’ve only lost once in the last 40 games, so it’s important to always think positive. If we have to go down, I’d prefer it to happen now than in March or when the World Cup arrives.”
“I knew it would be difficult when we drew against Switzerland but I didn’t think we would get past the play-offs. We had two penalties against Switzerland and made it difficult for ourselves,” he added.
If he could choose, Roberto Mancini wants Italy to avoid Portugal in the 2022 World Cup play-offs. Cristiano Ronaldo et al also failed to qualify directly for Qatar after finishing as runners-up in Group A. They were defeated by Serbia in the last match.
“If I had to choose one, I would choose Portugal,” said Mancini.
The 2022 World Cup play-offs will be followed by 12 teams that will be divided into three lanes, each filled with four teams. Each play-off route will host two semi-finals played with one leg and one final. The winners of each play-off path will qualify for the 2022 World Cup.