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Roberto Mancini says Italy would have liked to avoid a potential clash with Portugal in the World Cup play-off

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Roberto Mancini admits Italy would have liked to avoid a potential confrontation with Portugal in the World Cup play-off finals, but insists Euro 2020 champions are ‘confident and positive’

  • Italy and Portugal draw in the same trajectory of the World Cup play-offs
  • Reigning European champion meets North Macedonia in Rome in semi-final
  • Portugal will receive Turkey in Lisbon in March at the same stage
  • Italy and Portugal could meet in the final with a World Cup spot in 2022 at stake











Italian coach Roberto Mancini admitted he was far from thrilled at the prospect of playing Portugal in a potential World Cup play-off final.

Euro 2020 winners just over four months ago, Italy finished second in their qualifying group behind Switzerland and were tied against North Macedonia in the semi-final of the play-off in Zurich on Friday.

More importantly, Portugal was drawn down the same path, meaning the winners of the two most recent European Championships could meet in March in a showdown where the winner gets it all, with a place at next year’s World Cup for the to grasp.

Roberto Mancini admitted the reigning European champions wanted to avoid Portugal

Italy and Portugal, placed among the top six of the 10 runner-ups in qualifying, were guaranteed a draw for the one-off semi-finals and will play North Macedonia and Turkey respectively.

“It could have been a little better, that’s right,” Mancini told the Italian state broadcaster RAI after the draw. “It is clear that both us and Portugal have to beat Macedonia and Turkey.

‘It’s one leg, that always causes difficulties. We are confident and positive, especially in the more difficult moments.’

The Italian coach admitted the prospect of facing Cristiano Ronaldo was daunting

The Italian coach admitted the prospect of facing Cristiano Ronaldo was daunting

The Manchester United star has played in the last nine major international tournaments

The Manchester United star has played in the last nine major international tournaments

The semi-final against North Macedonia will be played in Rome, but Mancini warned against complacency.

“We had a great qualifying group,” he said.

“Even against Switzerland we deserved to win, but we didn’t. We’ll have to play a nice game, then we’ll see [what might happen] in the final.’

Italy finished second in Group C after failing to beat Northern Ireland in their last game

Italy finished second in Group C after failing to beat Northern Ireland in their last game

While Portugal missed automatic qualifying after conceding a late winner to Serbia

While Portugal missed automatic qualifying after conceding a late winner to Serbia

Mancini acknowledged that the prospect of meeting Cristiano Ronaldo with a World Cup place at stake was daunting, but insisted Portugal would be just as disappointed if Italy were pulled down the same path.

“We would have liked to have avoided them and they probably would have wanted to avoid us too,” he continued.

‘We are going to play a possible final against them.’

Since winning the 2006 World Cup, Italy were eliminated from the groups in 2010 and failed to qualify four years ago.

Portugal, meanwhile, has qualified for the final stages of each of the last ten major international tournaments, going all the way back to the 2002 World Cup.

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