What are the UEFA World Cup Qualifying Playoffs?

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Gualter Fatia / Contributor

Portugal is in a precarious situation after losing its final UEFA World Cup qualifying match on Sunday against Serbia.

The stakes for Cristiano Ronaldo and company were quite simple. Win or draw the match and they would’ve qualified for Qatar next November. A loss for the Portuguese means they'll have to fight through the UEFA playoffs in order to have a shot at securing its place at the World Cup.

Meanwhile, the same can be said for the defending Euro 2020 champions, Italy. The Azzurri fell short in their group finale against Northern Ireland with a 0-0 draw and they will now join Portugal and 10 other teams.

With UEFA having the largest representation at the World Cup -- with 13 nations being sent -- the European confederation will have 10 automatically qualified countries finalized by Tuesday afternoon.

Germany, Denmark, France, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, Spain, England and Switzerland have all earned their place at the 2022 World Cup, while one spot will be claimed on Tuesday.

Here’s a look at how the UEFA playoffs are set up and some important information about the last-ditch effort of 12 nations to qualify for next winter’s World Cup.

Where is the draw available for viewing?

The UEFA playoffs draw will be streamed live on FIFA’s website, Certain regions will also have the draw on network television as well. 

When is the draw for the playoffs?

The UEFA playoffs draw will be held on November 26 at 11 a.m. ET in Zurich, Switzerland.

How does the draw work?

While the UEFA playoffs typically consist of just one round, this World Cup qualifying cycle marks the first time there will be two rounds for nations to earn their spot.

The field will consist of one-off matches involving the 10 teams that didn’t win their groups during World Cup qualifying, as well as the two highest-placed finishers from the 2020/21 UEFA Nations League that didn’t finish first or second in their respective groups.

Six seeded teams will be assigned to the semifinals as home sides, while the six unseeded teams will be the away teams.

The 12 teams will be drawn in three paths of four nations, with each group having a "semifinal" and "final."

The seedings for the draw are based on qualifying-round points, with the six best runners-up seeded, while the two Nations League teams are unseeded.

Those semifinal and final rounds will yield three nations that will book their places at the World Cup.

Here are the 12 teams competing in the playoffs.

Pot 1

Portugal - Group A

Sweden - Group B

Italy - Group C

Wales - Group E

Scotland - Group F

Russia - Group H

Pot 2

Ukraine - Group D

Turkey - Group G

Poland - Group I

North Macedonia - Group J

Austria - Nations League

Czech Republic - Nations League

When will the playoffs occur?

The playoffs will commence in March 2022, with the match dates tentatively set for the semifinals on March 24/25 and then the finals on March 28/29. 

The three nations that emerge victorious will earn their places in Qatar along with the rest of the 32-team World Cup field.

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