Football: All Whites’ World Cup route decided as FIFA announces qualifying draw

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Chris Wood will undoubtedly play a big role in the All Whites’ qualifying campaign. Photo / Photosport

The All Whites’ road to the 2022 FIFA World Cup will pass through North America, after FIFA announced its playoff draw on Saturday.

Earlier this month, FIFA announced that the qualifiers would be one-way matches at a neutral venue, ending a long tradition of home and away matches, which produced memorable occasions in New Zealand and were lucrative for the NZF, sold out. matches against Bahrain (2009), Mexico (2013) and Peru (2017).

FIFA’s move was anticipated by match-making congestion created by the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the lingering uncertainty surrounding international travel.

This morning’s draw means the best team in Oceania after the World Cup qualifiers will face the fourth-best team in the North American CONCACAF group.

This group of teams includes the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica and Honduras – with Costa Rica currently ranked fourth on this list.

The All Whites lost 9-3 overall to Mexico in the 2013 World Cup qualifiers. Photo / Photosport
The All Whites lost 9-3 overall to Mexico in the 2013 World Cup qualifiers. Photo / Photosport

To put their ranking into perspective, the All Whites are currently ranked 110th in the world, while Costa Rica sits at 49th.

North America’s playoff game against Oceania is scheduled to take place in Qatar on June 14, 2022.

The Oceania qualifiers will also be held in Qatar in March, giving the team a chance to prepare for tough conditions in the heat of the Middle East.

The format of these matches is expected to be finalized on Monday, ahead of a draw at FIFA headquarters in Zurich on Tuesday morning.

The All Whites will make the Oceania playoffs as favorites, as they have done on each of the three occasions since Australia left the region for Asia in 2006.

New Zealand football CEO Andrew Pragnell said having some certainty about the upcoming schedule is a great relief for the organization.

“If we qualify as the OFC region, it’s great to finally know which confederation we’re up against.

“We share the disappointment of the fans that the change in the competitive structure means that we will not have a home game but can now start planning to achieve our ultimate goal of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar next year. “

Meanwhile, All Whites head coach Danny Hay said the team are on track to meet a tough challenge for the contested spot.

“Whatever team we get from Concacaf, we know they will be strong because they have to be at this level.

“We still have some work to do to qualify for the intercontinental qualifiers but, as we have shown in the previous two international windows, we are making progress both on and off the pitch.

“Now it’s our job to continue to build on what we’ve done this year and build on that momentum through 2022 as we look to qualify for Qatar.”

Elsewhere in the draw, European champion Italy and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are drawn, meaning at least one of them will miss next year’s tournament at the Qatar.

Italy face North Macedonia at home in the qualifying semi-finals next March, and the winner will face Portugal or Turkey for a World Cup spot.

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup – losing in the playoffs to Sweden – and will now likely have to beat Ronaldo and Portugal to avoid missing the tournament for the second time in a row. Portugal have always qualified during Ronaldo’s career. He first played at the 2006 World Cup.

Also in the 12-team draw, Scotland will face Ukraine at home, with the winner going to either Wales or Austria in their group final.

Russia will host Poland for the right to face either Sweden or the Czech Republic in their bracket final. Russia or Poland will host the final.

The six playoff semifinals will be played in one-way playoff games on March 24. The three finals will be played five days later.

The three winners will complete the European commitment of 13 nations in the formation of 32 teams in Qatar.

FIFA will draw lots for the tournament on April 1 in Doha.

The playoffs feature the 10 teams that finished second in their qualifying groups as well as two teams – Austria and the Czechs – who won the Nations League groups last year.

– with PA

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