Italy Opponents Set for World Cup Final-Four Style Playoff

Italy might have to beat Cristiano Ronaldo to make it to Qatar. The Azzurri and Portugal have been drawn in the Path C of the World Cup playoff and could meet in the final. Roberto Mancini’s team will face North Macedonia in the first game. Turkey is the remaining member of the four-team pool.

Italy will host the first match, while they would eventually play on the road in the decisive clash. Everything will go down in a matter of days at the end of March. North Macedonia finished second in their group behind Germany. They picked up five wins, three draws, and two losses and pipped Romania at the post. Portugal fumbled away the qualification in the final two rounds in favor of Serbia. Turkey closed with two fewer points compared to Netherlands, eliminating Norway with a late push. The Azzurri famously lost to Sweden the last time they were in this position.

Roberto Mancini commented: “We are confident and we think positively, especially in troubled times. North Macedonia fared well in their qualifiers. We will have to play a strong game. We would have happily avoided Portugal, but I am sure they share the same feeling. It is tough to recreate the same atmosphere as in the Euro. We hope to avoid injuries. The next penalty taker? We just hope to be granted one.” 

Italy should have three new additions by March. On top of Joao Pedro, the Federation is finalizing the paperwork for Roger Ibanez and Luiz Felipe. Neither of them has played for any Brazilian national team past the age of 21. Therefore, FIFA should green light their switch, likely in January. The coach said on the Cagliari striker: “It is something very recent, we will see. He is an excellent player and is accustomed to Italian football. But we must not forget what we achieved four months ago.”