The European World Cup qualifying playoff rounds kick off this Thursday, March 24th with four games on tap.
The UEFA play-offs were supposed to involve 12 teams to determine the final three European spots at this year’s World Cup in Qatar. The playoffs were to be contested by the 10 group runners-up from the qualifying tournament as well as two UEFA Nations League group winners from the 2020/21 Nations League event, which were Austria and the Czech Republic.
The 12 countries were divided into three groups with each consisting of four teams. Each group will feature two single-leg semi-final games and a single-leg final with two the finals being held on March 29th and one in June.
Italy will host North Macedonia while Turkey visits Portugal. The Czech Republic heads over to Sweden and Wales hosts Austria. However, the Scotland vs Ukraine contest has been postponed for the time being due to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia while Russia is currently banned from playing, meaning their game with Poland has been called off. Therefore, Poland has been awarded with a walkover to their group’s final.
The winner of the Wales vs Austria game will meet the winner of the Scotland vs Ukraine clash in June. Meanwhile, the winner of the Sweden vs Czech Republic showdown will meet Poland on March 29th and the winner of the Portugal vs Turkey match will also battle it out on March 29th with the winner of Italy vs North Macedonia.
According to the oddsmakers at bet365, Italy is favored to beat North Macedonia on Thursday at -450 with a draw being +550 and a Macedonian victory at +1000.
Portugal is a -250 favorite to take down Turkey with the visitors at +600 and a draw at +400.
Sweden is currently listed at +100 to defeat the Czech Republic with the visitors at +275 and a draw at +230.
Meanwhile, Wales is favored to triumph over Austria at +162 with the Austrians at +170 and a draw at +220.
Bet365 offers numerous types of wagers for the playoff games including live betting. Some of the other popular wagers include total goals, both teams to score, the correct score, half-time score, the game decided in extra time, and the game decided by a penalty shootout etc.
If the score is tied at the end of 90 minutes the game will go to 30 minutes of extra time with two halves each of 15 minutes and each side will be allowed to make a sixth substitution during the extra session. If the score is still level after extra time the game will be decided by a penalty shoot-out.
The following players are suspended for the March 24th playoff games:
North Macedonia – Elif Elmas and Tihomir Kostadinov; Portugal – Joao Cancelo and Renato Sanches; Sweden – Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Emil Krafth; Wales – Joe Morrell.