Portugal will return to dispute a play-off for access to a final phase for the fourth time in its history, after the defeat against Serbia (1-2), at Estádio da Luz, which sent Portugal to second place in Group A.
The draw for the European qualifying play-offs is scheduled for 26 November, with matches running from 24 to 29 March next year, as FIFA announced a few days ago. Portugal will be head of the series.
Portugal fails to qualify directly, but the truth is that whenever they had to compete in a play-off, as happened in the qualifiers for Mundial2010, Euro2012 and Mundial2014, they always managed to reach the finals, twice with Bosnia, another with the Sweden of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In the first, for the World Cup in South Africa, in 2010, Portugal faced Bosnia Herzegovina, starting by winning 1-0, also at Estádio da Luz, with a solitary goal by Bruno Alves, then winning again in Zenica, for the same result, with a goal by Raul Meireles.
Two years later, another play-off with Bosnia, now for Euro2012, but with the games reversed. First a void in Zenica, after a rout at Luz (6-2) with goals from Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Nani, Hélder Postiga (2) and Miguel Veloso.
Two more years and another play-off, this one the most exciting of all, in the race for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Once again at Estádio da Luz, Portugal started by beating Sweden 1-0, with a goal Cristiano Ronaldo’s solitaire. In the second game, in Solna, Portugal was losing 2-1, with two goals from Ibrahimovic, before Cristiano Ronaldo completed a hat-trick and claimed the victory for Portugal 3-2.
A different play-off: how will it work?
Unlike past play-offs in Europe, this one will work in a different format. It will be disputed by a total of 12 teams: the ten runners-up in the group stage (among them Portugal), plus the two best winners of the 2020/2021 League of Nations groups who have not been in the top two places in the European qualification in this group stage.
In the draw, these 12 selections will be divided into three paths. That is, each path will have a total of four selections. In each path, there will be semi-finals in a single game (March 24 and 25, 2022) and as the finals of the three paths, on March 28 and 29, 2022. The three winners of the finals of each path will qualify. to the World Cup in Qatar, while like other nine teams (like six losers in the semi-finals and like three losers in the finals of the three paths) are on the way.
Basically, this European play-off for the 2022 World Cup works just like the play-off for qualifying for the Euro 2020.
Mundial2014 (Brazil): play-off
Euro2012 (Ukraine and Poland): recap
Bosnia Herzegovina-Portugal, 0-0
Portugal-Bosnia Herzegovina, 6-2
Mundial2010 (South Africa): play-off
Portugal-Bosnia Herzegovina, 1-0
Bosnia Herzegovina-Portugal, 0-1