Italy to play Sweden, Rep of Ireland to meet Denmark in World Cup playoff
World Cup playoff draw

Italy to play Sweden, Rep of Ireland to meet Denmark in World Cup playoff

17/10/2017

Italy have been drawn against Sweden in the European playoffs for the 2018 World Cup, while Republic of Ireland will meet Denmark.

Elsewhere in the draw for next summer's tournament in Russia, Northern Ireland will face Switzerland and Croatia will play Greece.

Italy finished second in their qualifying group behind Spain to reach the playoffs, with their opponents Sweden narrowly beating Netherlands to a place in the draw, with France topping their pool.

Italy had been the seeded team going into the draw as the 15th-placed team in the FIFA World Ranking, with Sweden 25th.

Republic of Ireland, ranked 26th, claimed their place in the playoffs in dramatic fashion, beating Wales in their final group game to leapfrog them into second spot behind Serbia. Denmark, who sit 19th in the ranking, finished second in their group to Poland.

"Naturally, we're just pleased to be in the draw," Ireland boss Martin O'Neill said. "Being unseeded means it was always going to be a difficult tie. We're delighted to be in it."

He added: "If you ask most coaches, you want the second game at home. But with the rules like extra time, it gives the away team that chance to score in 120 minutes."

O'Neill, who played alongside Denmark boss Age Hareide at Manchester City and Norwich in the 1980s, said: "It will be an interesting confrontation."

Switzerland were unlucky not to reach the finals as winners of their group, ending the campaign with nine wins from their 10 qualifiers, but lost to Portugal in the final game of the group to finish behind the European champions. They are the highest-ranked nation in the playoffs, sitting 11th in the ranking.

Northern Ireland, 23rd in the ranking, lost to Germany and Norway in their final two qualifiers but still finished four points clear of Czech Republic to seal their place in the playoffs.

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill said: "It was going to be tough whoever we got but we're capable of going through to the finals in Russia.

"The most important thing is not to concede in the first as away goals can prove to be vital."

Meanwhile, 18th-ranked Croatia finished ahead of Ukraine for a spot in the draw and their opponents, 47th-ranked Greece, edged out Bosnia and Herzegovina in their group.

The first legs for each tie will take place from Nov. 9-11 with the second legs on Nov. 12-14.

World Cup playoff draw:

Northern Ireland vs. Switzerland

Croatia vs. Greece

Denmark vs. Republic of Ireland

Sweden vs. Italy

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