World Cup 2022 play-offs: How do the European qualifiers work?

Cristiano Ronaldo Francesco Totti Robert Lewandowski World Cup play-offGetty/Goal composite

The European representatives at World Cup 2022 are nearly confirmed, with three more places up for grabs.

Teams that missed out on automatic qualification for Qatar must now negotiate a two-game play-off if they are to ensure their name is in the hat for the group-stage draw next year.

So how does it all work and which teams are involved? GOAL brings you all the details.

Which European teams are in the World Cup 2022 play-offs?

Team

Seeded / unseeded

Portugal

Seeded

Scotland

Seeded

Italy

Seeded

Russia

Seeded

Sweden

Seeded

Wales

Seeded

Turkey

Unseeded

Poland

Unseeded

North Macedonia

Unseeded

Ukraine

Unseeded

Austria

Unseeded

Czech Republic

Unseeded

Twelve teams take part in the European play-offs for World Cup 2022. They are made up of the 10 qualifying group runners-up and the two best-placed teams from the 2020-21 UEFA Nations League.

The 12 teams were divided into two pots - seeded (Pot 1) and unseeded (Pot 2) - for the draw

Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal were one of the top teams in this section, along with recently-crowned European champions Italy.

From a UK perspective, Scotland and Wales are both involved - and seeded - as they look to join England in Qatar, with Russia and Sweden completing the seeded teams.

Robert Lewandowski and Poland are perhaps the headline team of the unseeded cohort, along with Turkey. They are joined in Pot 2 by North Macedonia and Ukraine, while Austria and Czech Republic earned their place through the Nations League.

How do the European World Cup 2022 play-offs work?

The 12 teams were allocated into three four-team paths, A to C. Each path features two semi-finals and then a final, with the winner progressing to the World Cup. In total, three teams advance.

The six seeded teams in Pot 1 have the advantage of playing at home in the semi-finals and are drawn against unseeded teams from Pot 2.

In order to determine which teams will play at home in the three finals, another draw was held.

Portugal and Italy were both drawn into the Path C section, meaning one of the last two European champions will not be going to Qatar in 2022. Wales and Scotland could end up playing each other in Path A, while Path C includes Russia, Poland, Sweden and Czech Republic.

You can see an outline of the play-offs below.

Path A

Stage

Home team

Away team

Semi-final 1

Scotland

Ukraine

Semi-final 2

Wales

Austria

Final 1

Wales / Austria

Scotland / Ukraine

Path B

Stage

Home team

Away team

Semi-final 3

Russia

Poland

Semi-final 4

Sweden

Czech Republic

Final 2

Russia / Poland

Sweden / Czech Republic

Path C

Stage

Home team

Away team

Semi-final 5

Italy

North Macedonia

Semi-final 6

Portugal

Turkey

Final 3

Portugal / Turkey

Italy / North Macedonia

When are the European World Cup 2022 play-offs?

Play-off stage

Date

Semi-finals

March 24, 2022

Finals

March 29, 2022

The World Cup 2022 play-offs for UEFA will begin with the semi-finals on Thursday March 24, 2022.

The play-off finals will then take place on Tuesday March 29, 2022.

Kick-off times will be finalised by UEFA after the play-off draw.

When is the World Cup 2022 play-off draw?

The draw will take place on Friday November 26, 2021 at FIFA headquarters in Nyon.

Read more about the play-off draw here.

When does World Cup 2022 start?

November 21, 2022 is the date of the opening game at World Cup 2022, with hosts Qatar taking on an as-yet-unconfirmed opponent in Group A.

Article continues below

The World Cup is traditionally held in the summer months - usually June and July - so the November-to-December dates of the upcoming competition are a complete departure.

The final of World Cup 2022 will take place on December 18, 2022.

World Cup 2022 news