As FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 approaches, the qualifying matches are coming to an end. The past couple of weeks have been extremely exciting, surprising and heartbreaking. It is sad to see two of Europe's biggest power houses not make the World Cup. Portugal and Italy did not secure first place in their group, and now they may meet in a World Cup play-in match.
The draw has shocked the world and it is extremely sad knowing that one of those countries will not qualify for the World Cup considering what the talent that they bring to the game.
As you can see, Italy will play North Macedonia in the semi-finals, and Portugal will play Turkey. In the end, Portugal will most likely beat Turkey, and Italy will most likely beat North Macedonia; thus they will probably meet in a final play-in game.
Over the past few weeks, Portugal has struggled against some weak teams, and that has led them to this unfortunate situation. On November 11, 2021, Portugal tied Ireland zero to zero. It was very disappointing for the Portuguese fans. In a game they were heavily favored to win, they just could not put the ball in the back of the net.
Both teams had 12 shots, but Portugal had three shots on goal, as opposed to Ireland's two. In terms of possession, it was fairly even. Portugal had 51% of the possession as opposed to Ireland’s 49%. The game had gotten quite out of hand with a total of 25 fouls, four yellow cards and one red card for Portugal.
Then on November 14, 2021, Portugal lost by one point to a strong and underrated Serbian side. Serbia has flown under the radar throughout the qualifiers. They have not lost a single game in the group stage, maintaining a record of 6-2 and securing the first place position and a trip to Qatar.
In terms of attack, the game was fairly even. Ireland had 11 shots on goal, while Portugal notched nine. However, Serbia dominated in terms of possession. Serbia maintained the ball for 57% of the game. Now Portugal must pull it back together if they want to earn a trip to Qatar. Portugal’s match against Italy will surely be an exciting game.
For Italy, it has been a rough time in the World Cup qualifiers. While they have not yet lost a game, they have struggled to find the back of the net. They have tied in four out of their eight games, and in each one they dominated. They drew Switzerland twice by scores of one-to- one and zero-to-zero. They drew Northern Ireland zero-to-zero. Lastly, they drew Bulgaria one-to-one.
In three out of the four games, Italy controlled the ball 64% of the time. They dominated the game in every match but failed to capitalize on their chances. This just goes to show that soccer is a game of mistakes. Just because you were the better team does not mean you will win the game. It happens all the time in soccer; however, four times over a long stretch definitely suggests that Italy is having some issues of their own. It’s sad to see the European champions fail to secure a spot in Qatar.
On a happier note, the United States is coming very close to securing a spot in Qatar. They are second in their group with 15 points, and they are sitting behind Canada with 16 points. The US still has six matches left to play, so hopefully they can close those matches out and qualify for their first World Cup since 2010.
More excitingly, the US beat Mexico 2-0 in thrilling fashion. With United States star player, Christian Pulisic, coming back from injury, the US was looking fierce. Despite Pulisic being replaced late in the game, he still set the tone. He came in and he silenced the crowd by giving the U.S. the 1-0 lead in the 74th minute. Then 15 minutes later, Weston Meckinie sealed the deal by breaking through Mexico's back line and slotting it past the keeper, making it 2-0. It’s great to see the U.S. national team finding good form again.
As of now, 13 teams have qualified for the World Cup in Qatar. The 13 teams are Qatar, the host, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Denmark, Brazil, France, Belgium, Croatia, Serbia, England, Switzerland, and the Netherlands. It is very sad to know that Italy or Portugal will not make it to Qatar. If Italy fails to qualify, it will be the second time in a row they have not qualified for the World Cup. For Portugal, it will be their first missed the tournament since 1930.