So far, only two teams from Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia have qualified for next year’s World Cup in Qatar: Croatia and Serbia.
Croatia and Serbia are so far the only countries in Central and Eastern Europe and Central Asia to qualify for next year’s FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the international football tournament on most important.
The two former Yugoslav republics dominated their qualifying groups, with Serbia sensational qualifying on November 14 with a last-minute goal from striker Aleksandar Mitrović in Portugal.
Mitrović beat Rui Patrício in Portugal’s goal with a header down at the far post to spark some crazy celebrations on the Serbia bench after visiting captain Dušan Tadić called a Renato Sanches opener.
Jubilant supporters invaded the center of Belgrade, the Serbian capital, immediately after the match, cutting off traffic.
Speaking in the post-match press conference, Serbian coach Dragan Stojković said: “We deserved to win tonight as the players showed so much character. It is a huge accomplishment for Serbian football. The team showed maturity and composure under the most intense pressure and I would have said the same if they had stayed 1-1 and we had been confined to the play-offs.
Croatia’s journey to the final was only slightly less dramatic. A late goal from Russian Fyodor Kudryashov allowed the Croats – who had played in the previous World Cup final in Russia – to win 1-0 in Zagreb, allowing them to overtake Russia for lead their group with 23 points in 10 games.
A draw would have been enough for Russia to finish top of Group H and they seemed to be on track to get there without either side being able to find a breakthrough until Kudryashov gave a helping hand. Croatia.
The Russians, second, will now head, like Portugal and their talismanic superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, to the play-offs, which will take place over five days in March.
More joy for North Macedonia
There they will be joined by several other teams from the region, including Poland, Czechia, Ukraine and – perhaps surprisingly – North Macedonia, which edged Romania to take second in their group, behind Germany, victor in flight.
The Macedonians, who took part in the delayed Euro 2020 earlier this year – the country’s first appearance in a major tournament – sealed a play-off place with an impressive victory in Skopje over Iceland.
Ezgjan Alioski gave North Macedonia the lead after just seven minutes, only for Jon Thorsteinsson to equalize for Iceland at the start of the second half.
Napoli star Eljif Elmas then scored twice to seal the victory. Elmas received his second yellow card from the qualifying tournament during the match, however, meaning he will be suspended for the play-off semi-final.
The draw for the play-offs will take place on November 26. Six seeded teams (Italy, Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Russia and Sweden) will be drawn against six non-seeded teams (Poland, Czech Republic, Ukraine, North Macedonia, Turkey and Austria) in the semi-final , the seeds benefiting from an advantage at home. Russia and Ukraine – for political reasons – cannot be drawn against each other.
The winners of the six semi-finals will face each other in three finals to decide between the last three European countries which will make the trip to Qatar.
The World Cup itself begins a year this weekend, November 21, 2022. The tournament traditionally takes place during the summer months – usually June and July – but has been postponed due to excessive summer heat in the summer months. Qatar.
The 2022 World Cup final will take place on December 18, 2022 in the Qatari capital Doha.
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