Tag Archives: World Cup 2022

European playoff draw made for Qatar 2022 World Cup

One of Italy or Portugal will NOT be at the World Cup in Qatar 2022 after they were drawn in the same path during the playoffs.

Both teams failed to finish top of their group following bad results in the final group game, with Portugal being beaten at home by Serbia and Italy being held to a draw with Northern Ireland.

Because of those results both sides were entered into the playoffs, where they were drawn in the same path meaning they could meet in the playoff final for one of the three available places in the tournament.



The result means only one of the teams can go through and they are likely to meet in the final game, with Portugal getting drawn with home advantage.

Scotland and Wales were also drawn in the same path, meaning Britain won’t have more than two sides representing them alongside England.

Russia and Sweden were the seeded teams to be drawn into Path B, meaning that only one of those will be able to qualify also.

For the biggest teams to meet each other they must first win games against the unseeded teams in a one-legged game too. You can see the full draw below.

Path A

Semi-finals:
Scotland vs Ukraine
Wales vs Austria

Final:
Winner of Wales/Austria vs Winner of Scotland/Ukraine

Path B

Semi-finals:
Russia vs Poland
Sweden vs Czech Republic

Final:
Winner of Russia/Poland vs Winner of Sweden/Czech Republic

Path C

Semi-finals:
Italy vs North Macedonia
Portugal vs Turkey

Final:
Winner of Portugal/Turkey vs Winner of Italy/North Macedonia

All semi-final fixtures will be played on March 24th 2022, before the finals on March 29th 2022.

Gareth Southgate’s new contract is jumping the gun for England

England have announced that manager Gareth Southgate has signed a two-year extension to his contract, taking him through to after Euro 2024.

It had been long expected that a deal would be reached between the parties to extend his tenure as the boss, after first taking charge of the national team back in 2016.

But now after confirming England’s place in the World Cup for 2022 in Qatar, the deal has been confirmed which will see Southgate complete eight years in charge should he finish out the deal.



But while Southgate’s performance as manager has undoubtedly been successful thus far, have they jumped the gun by extending his contract before a major tournament takes place?

England have enjoyed two brilliant tournaments so far under Southgate, reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 before making it all the way to the final of the delayed Euro 2020 earlier this year, losing to Italy on penalties at Wembley.

But despite the good tournaments, performances for the most part have been far from ideal from Southgate’s side.

The manager has constantly been critiqued for his defensive outlook on games despite the abundance of attacking talent he has at his disposal. Regularly fielding a three-at-the-back formation with two defensive midfielders too, it feels like there is a lot of potential waiting to be unlocked by a better coach.

Against the lesser nations, England have no problems whatsoever. They score plenty of goals, create plenty of chances and regularly win the games they’re supposed to win by a decent margin.

But against the top sides, we’ve seen them struggle on several occasions. When it comes to keeping the ball secure against sides full of quality, who know how to press and defend well they often get overrun and that is a coaching issue.

Southgate also has his favourites in the squad, with some getting call-ups regardless of form at club level while others struggle to get a call-up at all irrespective of what they’re doing for their club side.

While you could absolutely make a case for Southgate to get a new contract, giving him a new deal right before a major tournament seems weird.

What happens if England crash out at the group stages? What if England fail to score a single goal? What if England completely under-perform from their pre-tournament expectations?

Gareth Southgate poses in front of the tunnel as he is unveiled as the new England manager at Wembley Stadium on December 1, 2016 in London, England.

While the intentions are pure and from a good place, it just seems rushed. Southgate is very happy in the job and has intention of going anywhere else right now, and nobody else wants him currently.

England should probably have waited until the end of the tournament next year before extending, especially since Southgate himself had said he was in no rush.

But the announcement of the deal now means the pressure will be on in Qatar, if it wasn’t already.

Qatar World Cup 2022 – European playoffs explained

The Qatar World Cup 2022 qualifying phase is over for European nations, but we still don’t know all the teams that will be playing in the tournament.

After ten games each in their groups, ten teams have been assured qualification to the tournament next winter when the most prestigious tournament in football goes to the Middle East.

Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, France, Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, Croatia, England and Denmark have all confirmed their places, but there are still three more places up for grabs from the continent of Europe.



But there will be 12 teams competing for those final three spaces, in a mini playoff tournament that will decipher which teams make it. It’s a bit complicated, but here is how it will work.

The 12 teams involved in the playoff tournament are;

  • Portugal
  • Italy
  • Scotland
  • Wales
  • Russia
  • Sweden
  • Turkey
  • Poland
  • North Macedonia
  • Austria
  • Ukraine
  • Czech Republic

Of those sides, the first six named will be seeded which means they will play the fixture at home.

Antrim , United Kingdom - 15 November 2021; Italy players walk off the pitch dejected after the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qualifier match between Northern...
European champions Italy must go through a playoff to qualify for the World Cup

There will be three paths to the World Cup, with four teams separated into each of the three paths. In those paths there will be a one-legged semi-final game and then a one-legged final. The winner of those finals will earn qualification into the World Cup.

The semi-finals and finals of the games will take place between March 24th and March 29th 2022.

The draw for the paths will take place on Friday November 26th in Zurich, with another draw to take place following the semi-finals to determine which team will play the final at home.

Fernando Santos on borrowed time with Portugal

At the start of the international break this month, Portugal were in pole position to have their qualification status for Qatar 2022 all wrapped up.

They travelled to face the Republic of Ireland in a bit of a dead rubber game, because regardless of the result it was the final game against Serbia on Sunday night that mattered.

A 0-0 draw with Ireland changed nothing. Portugal needed a draw in the home game against Serbia to secure top spot on goal difference, while a victory would leave no question as to whether they deserved it or not.



The pre-game press conference once again led to Fernando Santos making a promise to Portugal fans.

“Tomorrow, we will qualify for the World Cup.”

They didn’t. Despite a goal from Renato Sanches in the second minute that gave them the lead, Portugal were poor throughout. Serbia equalised in the first half thanks to Dusan Tadic, whose strike took a slight deflection off Danilo and meant Rui Patricio could only deflect the ball into his own net.

Portugal barely created any chances in the game, with Cristiano Ronaldo failing to register a single shot on target in the game for the first time in the entire qualifying campaign.

But in the 93rd minute, Aleksandar Mitrovic slammed a header in at the near post to book Serbia’s ticket to Qatar and condemn Portugal to a play-off that makes their participation at the World Cup far from certain.

Santos has been in charge of Portugal since September 2014, when he took over from Carlos Quieroz after a poor start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.

The former Greece manager saved that campaign and led them in that World Cup, before then winning Euro 2016. He then led the team into the 2018 World Cup, where as European champions they really disappointed by crashing out in the round of 16 to Uruguay.

That should’ve been the trigger for Santos to depart, but instead Portugal opted to keep him and gave him the extra credit of winning Euro 2016. He responded by winning the first ever version of the UEFA Nations League the following year, defeating Holland in the final.

Since then however, it’s not been great going. Portugal struggled at Euro 2020 to a late win over Hungary in the opening group game before a defeat to Germany and a draw with France put them through as a best third-placed team. They were then beaten by Belgium, once again failing to really create much going forward.

Head coach Fernando Santos of Portugal, is seen during the UEFA EURO 2020, Round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja...

Now with this latest failure, it seems like his time as being the right man for the job is probably over.

With the squad at his disposal, he is a totally wrong fit for the team. Santos is constantly putting defence first when trying to sort a squad out, despite the abundance of attacking talent he has available to him.

The first thought of the manager is always not to lose rather than to win, which fitted well with expectations when he first took over but not so much anymore.

This is a squad that is more than capable of going toe-to-toe with the best teams in the world with a bit of tactical invention and good structure.

With the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix, Bernardo Silva, Diogo Jota and Ronaldo among the ranks then this is a team very capable of scoring goals.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal , Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes warm up prior the friendly football match between Portugal and Andorra, at the Luz...

With a four month period now between the failure and the play-offs in March, there is a chance to make a change now and bring in a more attack-minded coach like Leonardo Jardim to get the best out of this upcoming generation of attacking talent.

Santos is on borrowed time with Portugal and they have a chance to make it right before they miss out on a World Cup competition for the first time since 2002.

England secure World Cup 2022 qualification with 10-0 win

England sealed their spot in the Qatar 2022 World Cup with a thumping 10-0 win over San Marino on Monday night, led by captain Harry Kane’s four-goal haul.

Harry Maguire got his second goal of the international break to become England’s highest scoring centre-back ever, before Kane scored two penalties and two open play goals either side of a San Marino own-goal in the first-half.

Conor Gallagher became the 50th debutant under Gareth Southgate as a half-time substitute before goals from Emile Smith Rowe, Tyrone Mings, Tammy Abraham and Bukayo Saka wrapped up a dominant display.



It’s not a result that was ever in doubt, with San Marino earning just one win in 187 previous games and they’ve now conceded 30 goals since they last scored one.

Kane’s four-goal haul moved him level with Gary Lineker on 48 England goals, seven games quicker than the legendary striker managed it in. It means he is now just five goals behind Wayne Rooney’s all-time record, and six away from breaking it.

He also broke the record for the most goals in a calendar year for England, moving to 16 for 2021 with his strikes.

But aside from the record, the game simply stood just to give some other players extra minutes to impress Southgate ahead of the tournament next winter.

There are only three more squad meet-ups between now and the tournament starting next December, so Southgate will have limited time to see new faces performing within his setup.

The likes of Smith Rowe, Gallagher, Abraham and Bellingham all did themselves no harm with their performances, but their places are far from guaranteed with the likes of Mason Greenwood and Callum Hudson-Odoi also in the picture for future call-ups.

For Southgate, the plan now is to build his squad in his head for the World Cup and try to keep an eye on those players’ form while also coming up with how he wants to play during the winter tournament and start to implement those plans.

England have made it official nice and early, unlike Portugal and Italy who will be part of the playoffs to make it so some plaudits are deserved.

Now they need to make sure they’re not just there to make up the numbers, and that starts as soon as possible.

The England team that should start against San Marino

England travel to San Marino on Monday night in need of just one point to confirm their place as group winners and therefore seal qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

A 5-0 win over Albania on Friday all but secured their place in next winter’s tournament, with Harry Kane grabbing a hat-trick to go with Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson’s goals in the first half for a dominant win.

But for Monday’s game Gareth Southgate will be forced to make changes. Luke Shaw and Mason Mount have been ruled out with injuries, while Jordan Henderson, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling have all been released from duty early.



Crystal Palace midfielder Conor Gallagher has been called up from the Under-21’s as extra cover, but will he go straight into the starting lineup for the game? Here is the team I think should start.

Aaron Ramsdale

Jordan Pickford is still the number one for England and Southgate, but with Ramsdale’s current form he deserves a start in a game like this where he’s unlikely to be tested much, if at all.

Trent Alexander Arnold

The Liverpool man has been in excellent form for his club side this season but he was a substitute in the game against Albania on Friday where both Reece James and Kyle Walker started. He’ll get the nod and likely chip in with a goal contribution too.

Trent Alexander-Arnold of England looks on during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between England and Albania at Wembley Stadium on November...

Conor Coady and Tyrone Mings

Southgate has tended to rotate his centre-backs for these games against the more lowly opposition and it doesn’t get more lowly than San Marino, so expect both Coady and Mings to get the nod in this one.

Ben Chilwell

England’s only fit left-back in the squad following Shaw’s withdrawal with concussion, Chilwell is sure to start once again. His good performances in attack will surely lead to chances

Jude Bellingham

Bellingham has been a regular starter for Dortmund and despite only being 18 is one of the most talented footballers in the entire squad. Great in possession, physically imposing and technically astute he’ll have an absolute field day in this game and should start.

Kalvin Phillips

Southgate seems likely to stick with Phillips for this game following the withdrawals of James Ward-Prowse, Henderson and Declan Rice since the announcement of the squad. With Gallagher getting a late call up, he’ll likely start on the bench meaning Phillips starts again.

Gareth Southgate, Manager of England talks to Emile Smith Rowe and Bukayo Saka of England during a training session in the gym at St George's Park on...

Bukayo Saka

Saka has shone in an England shirt for the most part of his international career, so selection here will likely see him continue that. With Sterling leaving the squad early, Saka should get the nod and will probably get a goal or assist (or both) in a big win.

Emile Smith Rowe

The first time call-up, Smith Rowe made his debut as a substitute against Albania and should now get a start with Jack Grealish unavailable for the game after returning to Man City. His ability to dribble in tight spaces will help create chances, and in his current form he could well get his first goal for England.

Phil Foden

The key to the future for England, Foden is essential in any success the team will have and he’ll start here and be the main man when it comes to creating chances.

Harry Kane

The likelihood is Tammy Abraham will start this game, but captain Kane should be given the chance to add to his tally for the year. Kane has 12 goals for England in 2021 and broke Wayne Rooney’s record of 37 competitive goals against Albania. He’s only ten goals away from overtaking him on the overall table as England’s highest goalscorer ever, and he can make up some ground in this game even if only given 60 minutes or so.

The England team that should start against Albania

England are back in World Cup qualifying action against Albania on Friday night at Wembley, where a win will confirm their place in Qatar next year.

Gareth Southgate’s side currently sit top of their group with two games remaining, three points ahead of Poland and five ahead of Albania.

Only group winners are guaranteed a place in Qatar 2022, while runners-up will have to go through a play-off to make it. It makes bouncing back from last month’s draw with Hungary all the more important. But who should start the game? This is our England lineup.



GK: Jordan Pickford

England’s number one has been under pressure recently because of the form of Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal, but he’s been performing worse than this and kept his place so I’d expect him to get the nod once again.

RB: Reece James

No Chelsea player has been involved in more goals directly than James this season and he has proven his worth in both directions with some excellent defensive displays too. He has stiff competition with Trent Alexander-Arnold and Kyle Walker, but his performances deserve a start.

CB: John Stones

Stones has been a mainstay for Southgate whenever fit and despite having some fitness issues this season again, when he has played he’s been excellent. He’s claimed his City starting place back too, so should continue for England.

CB: Harry Maguire

Ben Chilwell of Chelsea talking to Reece James of Chelsea at full time of the Premier League match between Chelsea and Burnley at Stamford Bridge on...

Maguire arguably shouldn’t even be in the squad this time around if we’re going based on form, but the fact he is means he’ll start. His competition for places is Tyrone Mings who recently lost his place at Villa and Conor Coady who has never really impressed, so it’s a no-brainer really.

LB: Ben Chilwell

Chilwell lost his place as England’s first-choice left-back last year after Luke Shaw’s resurgence, but this season they’ve reverted to type and Chilwell has been flying. He’s been great going forward and defensively solid, so he deserves the starting spot.

DM: Declan Rice

England’s most in-form central midfielder this season, Rice has become indispensable to West Ham and the national team. His ability to win the ball back is unmatched in the squad, he has become a leader and is constantly improving on the ball so he should start here.

CM: Phil Foden

Southgate has previously featured Foden out wide mostly, but this special footballer should be playing centrally. A magician on the ball with great ball manipulation, a killer pass and an eye for goal, get him in the heart of the game to effect games and watch him shine.

CM: Jude Bellingham

Another superstar youngster, Bellingham has firmly established himself as one of the best young midfielders in the game. A regular starter with Dortmund, Bellingham’s skillset is so diverse that he can play any midfield role with ease and would offer the perfect balance alongside Rice and Foden.

Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden of England battle for the ball during a training session at St George's Park on November 09, 2021 in Burton upon...

RW: Raheem Sterling

Sterling’s season hasn’t gone to plan after Euro 2020, but his spot with England is pretty much guaranteed. He ended a goal drought for City recently and as a key part of Southgate’s England team, he will start on the right wing.

ST: Harry Kane

Another Harry who can count himself lucky that the England squad isn’t simply decided based on form, because if it was the captain would certainly not be involved. But since he is, and he’s the skipper and his record for England is so good, he’ll start and probably score to help them qualify.

LW: Jack Grealish

Grealish’s move to man City has certainly helped establish him as an England regular, but Marcus Rashford’s injury issues have helped him become a starter too. Rashford has withdrawn from the squad, leaving Grealish as the best and most senior option to play from the left so that’s what he’ll do.

Neymar reveals 2022 World Cup will be his last

Neymar has revealed that he expects the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to be his last.

The Brazilian winger has been a key man for his country for the best part of a decade, racking up over 113 caps and registering 69 goals for the Seleccao, just eight behind record holder Pele.

The Paris Saint-Germain winger is expected to be a key man once again for Tite as Brazil look for a record-extending sixth World Cup title next winter in the middle east, with Neymar looking for his first title.



The 29-year-old will be 30 by the time that tournament comes around and while many footballers play on until their late 30’s these days, Neymar has revealed that he feels that tournament will be his last with Brazil.

Speaking candidly to DAZN for his new documentary “Neymar and the Line of Kings”, the former Barcelona star revealed he doesn’t feel he has the mental strength for football anymore but says he will give everything to make his final World Cup a success.

“I think it’s my last World Cup. I see it as my last because I don’t know if I have the strength of mind to deal with football any more.

So I’ll do everything to turn up well, do everything to win with my country, to realise my greatest dream since I was little. And I hope I can do it.”

Neymar Jr. Of Brazil lines up prior to a match between Brazil and Peru as part of South American Qualifiers for Qatar 2022 at Arena Pernambuco on...

With several World Cup qualifiers and friendlies to come between now and then, Neymar could well step into the tournament as the greatest goalscorer in Brazil’s history.

Pele currently holds the record with 77 goals and Neymar has previously scored six times at World Cup competitions in ten appearances.

His best performance came at the Brazil World Cup in 2014 where he was the stand-out performer at the tournament, before suffering a fracture in his back during the win over Chile in the quarter-final.

Brazil were then humiliated and defeated 7-1 by Germany in the semi-final, with the Germans going on to beat Argentina in the final.

Mason Mount rises to international level as England beat Albania

England made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying as a Mason Mount inspired performance gave them a 2-0 victory in Tirana.

Albania were an organised outfit in the opening exchanges as England looked to create opportunities, but it was a Luke Shaw cross that found Harry Kane to break the deadlock in the first half.

England controlled the possession throughout the game with 71% of the ball and it was the 22-year-old Chelsea midfielder who broke through and lifted the ball over the onrushing goalkeeper to double the lead and seal the three points.

Mount was starting his seventh international game in a row and made it four goals from 15 caps as he turned in a top drawer performance from a central midfield position.

Gareth Southgate lined his side up in a 4-3-3 formation, with Declan Rice holding at the base of the midfield with Kalvin Phillips and Mount just ahead of him. Mount did a great job of breaking forward and making third man runs, but also did his own dirty work in midfield too in what was a great box-to-box performance.

He completed 60/69 passes for an 87% success rate, but also made a game high three successful tackles made and won two of his three aerial duels too.

There was a level of maturity and quality in his game that was also shown in the win over San Marino last week, to show that he is truly taking to the international stage remarkably well. While the level of opposition isn’t the highest, it goes without saying that you can only play what is in front of you and is worthwhile remembering it was Mount who got the winner in England’s recent win over Belgium.

Mount’s constant inclusion at both club and international level had been met with criticism earlier in the season, but he has shown throughout the campaign that he is capable of performing well even with all eyes on him and he seems to thrive in that.

England manager Southgate addressed that criticism after the game, coming to his defence.

“I was saying in the autumn he is a very good player. Now Thomas Tuchel picks him, everyone agrees. When Frank Lampard did it, it didn’t count for some reason.”

While the comment is unlikely to win over any doubters or naysayers that both Mount and Southgate have, he has got a point. There was a lot of negativity around the relationship between Lampard and Mount but a lot of it was seen to be aimed at the player when in reality it was aimed at the manager.

Lampard’s refusal to use Mount in his best position due to his versatility was a hinderance to the team. He also just didn’t want to rest him which led to a dip in form and drew criticism also. As for Southgate, he had a tendency to bring Mount up out of nowhere when the conversation was based on another player – namely Jack Grealish – which angered fans.

What Mount has been able to do though is turn many of his naysayers into believers and his performances continue to rightfully earn him praise and potentially a starting lineup place for Euro 2020.

Portugal continue to play to level of opponents in narrow win over Azerbaijan

Portugal kicked off their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign with a narrow win over minnows Azerbaijan, as a pattern in their recent games continued.

Despite starting with a very strong team including Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, Pedro Neto and Joao Cancelo, the two teams were only separated by an own goal from Azerbaijan defender Maksim Medvedev in the first half.

Portugal continued to dominate the ball and push forward, but failed to create any real clear cut chances until the final minutes of the game when substitute Joao Felix hit the ball straight at the goalkeeper.

It was the Seleccao’s fourth win in five games and added another clean sheet to Fernando Santos’ record, with the victory marking his 50th in competitive games as Portugal manager.

But there was a pattern displayed in this game that has been fairly worrying for some fans in recent games, that the team seem to play to the level of whatever the opposition is they’re up against.

The recent games against Spain and France saw them eek out close fought 0-0 draws before succumbing to a 1-0 defeat to the world champions in a game that could have gone either way. They were able to beat Sweden in relatively dominant fashion following that, before a 7-0 win over lowly Andorra too.

Against Croatia they seemed to go toe-to-toe and came out 3-2 winners thanks to a last minute Ruben Dias header, in a game they could easily have lost too. They were being comfortably outplayed by the home side before Marko Rog’s second yellow card just moments before the equaliser.

Considering the quality they have running through the squad, they still seem to play at their best when they have the underdog mentality going into games.

Santos’ preference is to set up a solid defence and to let the attacking players perform freely, but with so much depth and quality he should be setting up to take games by the scruff of the neck and dominate them.

The vast majority of the attacking players thrive in possession based teams at club level and are better suited to that type of game, while the fact Ronaldo is allowed to take the evenings off when it comes to defending surely means the overall game is better suited to not having to defend so much.

With a game against Serbia at the weekend and then another qualifier against Albania next midweek, Portugal will need to find a level we all know they’re capable of to win those games against much tougher opposition than Azerbaijan could provide.

During Euro 2016 we saw Portugal win only one game during 90 minutes in the entire competition on their way to winning the competition, then in the 2018 World Cup in Russia they fought to an exciting draw with Spain then beat Morocco 1-0 before being held to a 1-1 draw with Iran. They then failed to really turn up against Uruguay in the knockout rounds, getting eliminated at the first attempt.

If Euro 2020 and the 2022 Qatar World Cup are to be successful with what could be argued as Portugal’s strongest squad ever, they need to start performing to their potential in every game.