Who do Bettors Favor?
According to the best online sportsbook sites, the most one-sided of the upcoming playoff games is between Italy and North Macedonia, who are rated at +1400 to pull off a major shock, while Portugal are also rated as strong favorites to beat Turkey. Sweden are favored at +100 to overcome the Czech Republic, while Austria have only a slight edge over Wales in the betting markets at +170.
|Wales v Austria|
How Do the UEFA Qualifying Playoffs Work?
The first round of UEFA qualifying saw the winners of ten Groups earn a World Cup spot. The ten runners-up qualified for these playoffs, to which were added the two best Nations League Group winners who had not finished first or second in their World Cup Group.
The twelve teams are divided into three Paths, with each Path featuring two semi-finals and a final, and only the three finals winners qualify for the World Cup. The outbreak of war in Ukraine, however, has impacted the playoffs. Russia are no longer part of Path B, while Ukraine’s semi-final with Scotland, as well as the Path A final, have been postponed until June.
Wales v Austria, 2022-03-24
With Scotland and Ukraine’s semi-final postponed, the qualifier from Path A will not ultimately be decided until June, and both Wales and Austria will fancy their chances of still being involved at that point.
There is very little to choose between these teams on paper, although Wales performed more effectively in the Group stage, finishing second in their Group, while Austria qualified due to their Nations League performances.
Ultimately, home advantage could be crucial. The partisan Welsh crowd creates a terrific atmosphere, which partially explains the fact that Wales have only lost once at home since November 2018. Given that Austria have lost two of their last three competitive games on the road, the home team looks the best bet.BetUS
Sweden v Czech Republic, 2022-03-24
The winner of this game will meet Poland in the Path B final, who received a bye due to the expulsion of Russia from the competition, and this is arguably the most balanced of the three playoff Paths.
Sweden have a very strong home record, and came close to beating Spain in their qualifying Group, so will be favorite here, particularly given their opponents’ relatively poor record on the road.
Still, the Czechs cannot be written off here. Last summer they were one of the teams of the tournament at Euro 2020 and they have put together a handy five-game unbeaten run going into these playoffs. Those results included draws against Wales and Ukraine, in which they were behind, underlining their resilience. They are tough opponents and I’m backing them to edge this one.
Italy v Macedonia, 2022-03-24
Failure to qualify automatically for the World Cup will have revived painful memories of 2018 for Italian fans and this time round their playoff task looks even tougher as they will almost certainly have to beat Portugal if they want to reach the World Cup.
Four draws in their last five qualifying games were the ultimate reason for Italy’s failure, but Roberto Mancini’s side will be confident of outscoring North Macedonia.
Italy’s opponents are clearly on the up at the moment and were superb during their qualifying campaign. They’ve also lost only one of their last seven qualifiers and reached their first major tournament at Euro 2020 last summer, although they didn’t pick up a point during the competition.
Nerves will be jangling in Palermo on Thursday night, and while Italy are deserved favorites, they don’t appeal much in a knock-out game against opponents with nothing to lose.
Portugal v Turkey, 2022-03-24
A goalless draw against the Republic of Ireland in their penultimate qualifying game, and a very late winner from Aleksandr Mitrovic in their last match condemned Portugal to the playoffs, and with a potential final with Italy to come, it is far from certain that they will be at the 2022 World Cup.
They won’t be taking Turkey lightly, however. Stefan Kuntz’s side have lost only one of their last six, and finished the Group stage strong, winning their last three, although Latvia, Gibraltar and Montenegro were not the toughest opponents on the world stage.
The task is made tougher for Portugal by the fact that they will be missing Pepe, Ruben Dias and Joao Cancelo, leaving them with a makeshift defense. However, they remain a much stronger side than Turkey, whose only recent game against a big European team was a 6-1 thrashing by the Netherlands, so with home advantage, Portugal should progress here.