Getty Images

The spring international break is upon us and that means that the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers are here with all eyes on the UEFA teams. Thursday saw one of the most shocking results in recent international soccer history as Italy got dumped out of qualification by North Macedonia.

Although this qualification phase will not be complete until Scotland's clash with Ukraine is resolved, a match postponed due to Russia's recent invasion, Paths B and C will be decided this month as Poland, Sweden, Czech Republic, and North Macedonia joined the Italians and Portuguese in competing to qualify.

UEFA World Cup qualifying results

  • Italy 0, North Macedonia 1
  • Portugal 3, Turkey 1
  • Wales 2, Austria 1
  • Sweden 1, Czech Republic 0 (AET)

Here's the goal that sent Italy crashing out of World Cup contention:


Russia's war on Ukraine has impacted both Paths A and B with Poland receiving a bye to their Path B final, Russia suspended and the clash between Scotland and Ukraine postponed by FIFA with the blessing of the Scottish FA. Wales and Austria will go ahead this month due to potential fixture congestion with UEFA Nations League games also scheduled for this year's summer international period.

UEFA World Cup qualifying draw

Ten teams from Europe have already qualified for the World Cup. Twelve more teams are competing for the remaining three slots. Those teams consist of the ten group stage runners-up as well as Austria and the Czech Republic who qualified based on their Nations League ranking. The 12 teams were then split into three groups of four on paths A, B and C which will each crown a qualifier after a semifinal and a final. 

Path A: Wales, Austria, Scotland, and Ukraine.

Wales defeated Austria 2-1 behind two goals from Gareth Bale including a stunning free kick to open the scoring. They will have to wait to discover whether Scotland or Ukraine join them as finalists.

Path B: Sweden, Czech Republic, and Poland.

Russia was originally drawn to face Poland, but all three opposing soccer federations refused to face the Russian team after the invasion of Ukraine and the Court of Arbitration for Sport has since upheld both FIFA and UEFA suspensions of Russian teams from competition.

Routes: Poland go directly into the final in Chorzow where they'll meet Sweden who needed extra time to get past the Czech Republic in Solna thanks to a 110th minute goal from Robin Quaison.

Path C: Italy, North Macedonia, Portugal, and Turkey.

Despite their status as reigning European champions, there is no bye for the Italians into the World Cup, and not only did they fait to automatically qualify they lost on a stunning extra time goal to North Macedonia and won't even make the finals. Portugal flirted with blowing a two goal lead after conceding a goal and a penalty, but Burak Yilmaz's miss effectively ended the match as a contest and Portugal added a third to put the match away.

Routes: North Macedonia, with one giant killing under their belt are off to Portugal to see if they can repeat the trick and keep Cristiano Ronaldo from going to Qatar.

Rules for UEFA World Cup qualifying

These are single-leg semifinals and finals, and the Paths A, B and C winners will each qualify for the World Cup later this year. In the event of level scores after 90 minutes, there will be 30 minutes of extra time which will enable sixth substitutions. Should no team score in the additional 30-minute period, penalties will determine the winners. VAR has also been approved for use in these qualifiers.

Player suspensions

Suspensions for accumulated yellow cards have carried over into these games with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Portuguese pair Joao Cancelo and Renato Sanches among those unavailable for their respective nations' opening fixtures.