The World Cup 2022 play-offs are reaching a climax with the final three European berths yet to be decided ahead of this winter’s tournament in Qatar.
Portugal vs North Macedonia – Tuesday, 7.45pm – live on Sky Sports Action
Cristiano Ronaldo has urged local fans to make their presence felt at Porto’s Dragao stadium on Tuesday when Portugal host giant-killers North Macedonia in a playoff tie that will secure the winners a place in this year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
North Macedonia created a huge shock last week when they eliminated Italy, the winners of four World Cup titles, from the running to secure a place in the 32-team tournament.
Hence the Portugal talisman has called on supporters to ensure they do not suffer the same fate.
“I urge the fans: I want hell breaking loose at Dragao,” Ronaldo told a news conference on Monday.
“I went to bed last night thinking that I want the stadium to shut down the music for our national anthem and let the fans sing it a cappella to show our passion, our strength and union around the objective of reaching the World Cup.
“If our fans show up the way they can, we will win on Tuesday.”
Live World Cup Qualifier
Tuesday 29th March 7:40pm
The 37-year-old Manchester United striker said that he and his team mates were “very confident” about taking on the North Macedonians, who shocked Italy 1-0 in their playoff semi-final.
“It will be the game of our lives too,” said the Portugal captain, who dismissed suggestions that they were facing “an easier opponent” instead of the highly anticipated showdown between the last two European champions.
“The pressure is the same regardless. The team is ready, I don’t care against who we play. If Portugal play at our highest level, we can win against any opponent in the world. So that’s why I insist with my call to the fans: we need your full support on Tuesday. If you are with us, we will win the game.”
Ronaldo was, however, irritated when asked if Qatar would be his last World Cup if Portugal qualified for the finals.
“I’m tired of those questions. I’m the one who decides my future,” a visibly angry Ronaldo said. “If I want to keep playing, I will. If I want to stop, I will stop. I’m the one who is in charge of those decisions. That’s it.”
Poland vs Sweden – Tuesday, 7.45pm – live on Sky Sports Football via red button
Poland and Sweden meet in the FIFA World Cup Path B play-off final on Tuesday.
The winner will book one of three remaining places at the 2022 tournament in Qatar, with the World Cup draw due to take place on Friday.
Poland – who were runners-up to England in Group I – were given a bye to the play-off final when their opponents Russia were suspended from international competition by FIFA and UEFA.
Poland coach Czeslaw Michniewicz said: “We have studied Sweden in depth. We also had our people at their game against Czech Republic. We know what to expect from them. They are a very good, very well organised team, no doubt about it. But we will have our plan for this match. Provided he is fit, Wojciech Szczęsny will be in goal for us.”
Arkadiusz Milik and Bartosz Salamon both sustained injuries in the first half of Thursday’s draw with Scotland, while midfielder Mateusz Klich is suspended.
Sweden – who finished behind Spain in Group B – overcame Czech Republic in their semi-final as substitute Robin Quaison scored the only goal in extra-time, with the suspended Zlatan Ibrahimović watching on.
Sweden coach Janne Andersson said: “[Poland] are tactically similar to Czech Republic, and that’s beneficial for us, having played a similar side on Thursday. Robert Lewandowski is world class and that gives them an edge. We played them last summer and that was a battle. I expect the same tomorrow.”
Sweden will have Ibrahimovic back from a ban served in the semi-final win alongside right-back Emil Krafth.
Andersson is without Martin Olsson, with the defender picking up an injury against the Czech Republic and withdrawing from the squad.
How do the play-offs work?
Ten group runners-up are joined by the two best group winners from the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League overall ranking that have neither qualified directly as group winners, nor entered the play-offs already as group runners-up.
These 12 teams were drawn into three play-off paths for one-off semi-finals and a final. The three path winners qualify for the World Cup.
When are the play-offs scheduled for?
Scotland vs Ukraine – Postponed until June [date TBC] – Live on Sky Sports
Wales 2-1 Austria
World Cup qualifying play-off final: Wales vs Scotland or Ukraine – June [date TBC] – Live on Sky Sports
Russia vs Poland – Cancelled: Poland given bye
Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic
World Cup qualifying play-off final: Poland vs Sweden, Tuesday March 29, kick-off 7.45pm – Live on Sky Sports
Italy 0-1 North Macedonia
Portugal 3-1 Turkey
World Cup qualifying play-off final: Portugal vs North Macedonia – World Cup qualifying play-off final, Tuesday March 29, kick-off 7.45pm – Live on Sky Sports
What is the World Cup format and schedule?
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar will feature 32 teams in eight groups of four.
Four matches will be played each day during the group stage, which will run over a 12-day period and see winners and runners-up progress to the round of 16.
Matches will only be assigned to particular venues after the finals draw, so organisers can choose optimal kick-off times to suit television audiences in different countries, as well as supporters out in Qatar.
The finals draw is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 3, after the March window for international fixtures.
Unlike at Euro 2020, there will be a third-place play-off game on December 17.
Group stage: November 21- December 2
Round of 16: December 3-6
Quarter-finals: December 9/10
Semi-finals: December 13/14
Final: December 18