Italy national team manager Roberto Mancini has named Portugal as the side he would like to avoid being drawn against in the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
The defending Euro champions have to secure their place in the 2022 World Cup through play-offs after failing to finish top of their Qualifiers group. Mancini’s side could only finish second behind Switzerland, who have sealed their spot in the quadrennial event.
Another top side that has to go through play-offs to qualify for the 2022 World Cup is Portugal, and Mancini hopes Italy avoid A Seleção in the draw.
“If I had to pick one, I’d say Portugal,” Mancini said at the Social Football Summit event in Rome, as quoted by Football Italia.
Mancini also admitted he did not expect Italy would have to play the play-offs. He said: “I knew it would be difficult when we were drawn against Switzerland, but I didn’t think we’d end up in the play-offs. We had two penalties against Switzerland and made life complicated for ourselves.”
Meanwhile, the 12 teams that have progressed to European play-offs will be split into three separate ‘paths’, each of which is a four-team mini-tournament with one-legged semi-finals and finals. The winners of these three mini-tournaments will seal their place in the 2022 World Cup. The European play-offs will take place in the next international break, with semi-final matches on 24/25 March 2022 and the three finals on 28/29 March 2022.