The matchups are set for the European World Cup qualifying playoffs next month:
Portugal vs. Sweden
Greece vs. Romania
Croatia vs. Iceland
Ukraine vs. France
FIFA conducted the draw this morning in Zurich.
The matches will take place Nov. 15 and 19, with the four winners joining the nine other European qualifying sides in Brazil next summer. Ukraine, Greece, Iceland and Portugal will host the first legs.
My picks: Portugal, Greece, Croatia and France.
The draw’s outcome was consistent with FIFA’s rankings.
Had the eight teams been seeded based on world status, the outcome would’ve looked like this:
1 Portugal (14) vs. 8 Iceland (46)
2 Greece (15) vs. 7 Romania (29)
3 Croatia (18) vs. 6 Sweden (25)
4 Ukraine (20) vs. 5 France (21)
So in the end, Croatia feels fortunate with Iceland instead of Sweden while Portugal is not happy about Sweden instead of Iceland.
The biggest downside of the Sweden-Portugal pairing? The World Cup will miss out on Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo.
ESPN carried UEFA’s World Cup qualifiers during group play and presumably will offer the playoff matches on various platforms, primarily ESPN3.com.
Seven other playoffs will be settled next month: the second legs of the five African showdowns, plus the two-game series for Uruguay vs. Jordan and Mexico vs. New Zealand.