🏆 WCQ play-offs: All you need to know about Thursday's semi-finals | OneFootball

🏆 WCQ play-offs: All you need to know about Thursday's semi-finals

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It’s a big night on Thursday as eight nations attempt to move a step closer to qualification for the 2022 World Cup.

Here’s everything you need to know about the four semi-finals.

Italy must overcome North Macedonia hurdle to reach the final

It’s inconceivable to think that Euro 2020 winners Italy might not make it to Qatar, but the Azzurri must take the scenic route via the play-offs if they are to avoid missing out on a second successive World Cup.

Roberto Mancini’s side actually went unbeaten in qualifying, but one draw too many saw them finish behind Switzerland in their group.

A couple of big wins against Armenia and Iceland in November saw North Macedonia into the play-offs and they can take confidence from last year’s stunning victory over Germany when they face the European champions in Palermo.

📊 Fun fact: A 1-1 draw between these two sides in Turin in October 2017 was one of the results that ultimately cost Italy qualification for the 2018 World Cup.

Italy 0
North Macedonia 1
Full time

Can Turkey stop Portugal in their tracks?

The winner of that Italy v North Macedonia clash will face the winner of Portugal v Turkey in the final, meaning at least one major European nation will be watching the World Cup from home.

After a disappointing showing at Euro 2020, Portugal coach Fernando Santos is under pressure to deliver, and it will be a huge shame if the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva and Diogo Jota are not on display in Qatar.

Despite being tipped by many as Euros dark horses, Turkey also flattered to deceive at the tournament, losing all three of their matches and scoring just one goal.

Burak Yılmaz and Hakan Çalhanoğlu represent Turkey’s biggest threats to Portugal when the two sides meet at Estádio do Dragão, and they are unbeaten since Stefan Kuntz took over as coach back in September.

📊 Fun fact: Portugal’s Ronaldo broke the world record for international goals during the qualifying campaign and his tally currently stands at 115.

Portugal 3
Turkey 1
Full time

Will Austria put a roadblock between Wales and history?

We are living through a golden age of Welsh international football with The Dragons making their presence felt at the last two European Championships.

But their last World Cup appearance came in 1958 and a mammoth effort will be required from Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and co. in Cardiff on Thursday if they are to move a step closer to immortality.

Particularly as Austria will be equally determined to qualify having themselves not featured at a World Cup finals since 1998.

The winner of this semi-final will face either Scotland or Ukraine in the final, but that fixture has been postponed until a yet to be confirmed date.

📊 Fun fact: Wales are unbeaten in their last 16 home games, dating back to a defeat to Denmark in November 2018.

Wales 2
Austria 1
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Who will meet Poland in the final?

After Poland were awarded a walkover due to Russia being banned from the competition, it’s a match between Sweden and Czech Republic in Solna which will determine their opponents in the final.

The Czechs performed well at last summer’s Euros and will be aiming to qualify for their first World Cup since 2006.

But they must get past a strong Sweden side who reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2018 and have home advantage in the semi-final.

Sweden 1
Czech Republic 0
Full time

📊 Fun fact: Sweden have won their last nine matches in Solna, scoring 18 goals and conceding just four.