Eight second-best ranked teams from the nine groups of UEFA World Cup Qualifying will be placed into a Playoff Draw next Tuesday.
Though the final eight are not yet confirmed with matches still to be played across Monday and Tuesday evening, we can begin to put the pieces of the puzzle that is November’s World Cup Playoff together.
Note: This list will contain spoilers for those who have not yet seen the results of the weekend’s European World Cup Qualifying matches.
Teams will be placed into either the seeded group (Pot 1) or the unseeded group (Pot 2), with each of the sides being paired off in four two-legged home and away matches when the draw takes place.
What side of the draw a nation will be placed in will run in accordance with the FIFA World Rankings published on October 16, 2017.
If the draw was announced today, we would have Portugal, Italy, Wales and Slovakia in Pot 1 (seeded). Sweden, Denmark, Northern Ireland and Greece would be in Pot 2 (unseeded).
EURO 2016 winners Portugal might end up not having to bother with the prospect of a World Cup Playoff if they can grab all three points in their final group stage match. The obstacle in front of them is Switzerland, a side with a 100% record in qualifying, but a win would guarantee the Portuguese a direct route to Russia.
A similar scenario could occur in Group A, with Sweden mathematically capable of overtaking France for top spot, though the chances are slim; Sweden need to beat Holland away from home and hope that second-last Belarus can at least hold France to a draw.
Group D will undoubtedly host one of the most intriguing showdown of the entire continent’s qualifying sector; Wales and Ireland slug it out for second spot in Group D on Monday night (unless Serbia fail catastrophically by failing to beat Georgia at home, which would allow either Wales or Ireland to book a direct ticket to the 2018 World Cup).
Greece are primed to secure a Playoff spot when they host minnows Gibraltar on Tuesday night, but cannot afford to slip up with the knowledge that Bosnia have a superior goal difference and can pip them to second spot if they beat Estonia away and Greece fail to beat Gibraltar.
Group I features another all-or-nothing contest between Croatia and Ukraine, though the pressure will be on the latter to push for the victory in front of home fans, while the former could secure a Playoff spot with a point. Both of their chances of direct qualification are meagre with top-of-the-table Iceland hosting winless Kosovo.
The World Cup Playoff draw takes place on October 17, 2017 at 14:00 CEST at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.
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