Europe's World Cup play-offs: Italy to face Sweden


The draw for Europe's 2018 FIFA World Cup play-offs saw Italy paired with Sweden in the pick of the ties as eight nations bid to reach Russia.

The Republic of Ireland face Denmark, Northern Ireland take on Switzerland and Croatia meet Greece after the draw, which was conducted by Spain great Fernando Hierro in Zurich.

Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Denmark were the four seeded teams in the play-offs, with Northern Ireland, Sweden, Republic of Ireland and Greece unseeded.

Italy finished as runners-up to Spain in qualification Group G and must now pass a tough two-legged test against Sweden if they are to reach a 15th consecutive World Cup, with the 2018 edition in Russia beginning next June.

Republic of Ireland face the lowest-ranked of the seeded teams in Denmark, who lost out to Poland in their qualifying group.

Northern Ireland finished behind world champions Germany but ahead of nations like the Czech Republic and Norway in the group stage. They now face a tough test against the Swiss, the highest-ranked team in the play-offs at number 11.

Croatia meet near neighbours Greece, who at 47 in the world were comfortably the lowest-ranked of all eight sides in the draw.

The first leg of the play-off ties will be played over November 9-11, with the second legs promptly following on November 12-14.

Four nations will emerge from the ties to join France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland and hosts Russia as the 14 European representatives at the tournament.

As well determining the seedings for the play-offs, the latest batch of FIFA rankings will be used for the main World Cup draw in December.

Spain and England will be in pot two for the World Cup, as will Italy if they progress against Sweden. It means those major nations could face top-seeded sides like Germany, Brazil and Argentina at the event. 

European World Cup play-off draw in full

Northern Ireland v Switzerland
Croatia v Greece
Denmark v Republic of Ireland
Sweden v Italy

Source Omnisport