World Cup: Intercontinental play-offs preview
There are only two places remaining for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar and over the next two days we will find out which countries have taken the final spots. Both places will be decided by intercontinental play-offs with teams from the CONMEBOL, Asian Football Confederation (AFC), Oceania Football Confederation (OFC) and CONCACAF all featuring.
The first tie will take place tonight between Australia, representing the AFC, and Peru, representing CONMEBOL.
The final World Cup place will be decided tomorrow night when New Zealand, representing the OFC, face Costa Rica, representing CONCACAF.
Australia, Peru and New Zealand all featured in the intercontinental play-offs for the 2018 World Cup so they’re no strangers to this form of qualification. Australia progressed to the Russian World Cup after defeating Honduras 3-1 on aggregate whilst Peru beat New Zealand 2-0 over the two legs.
This year’s pay-offs will be different to those in previous years because there will be a one-off game to decide the winner instead of a two-legged affair. Each country would usually play a home and away leg but FIFA decided to have single-leg knockout match in the host country of the upcoming World Cup. Both ties will take place at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar.
Australia vs Peru
As mentioned above, both these teams have experience in the intercontinental play-offs and this the route in which they qualified for the 2018 World Cup but one will have miss out this time around.
Australia reached this stage after finishing third in their qualifying group and winning the AFC play-off final. Saudi Arabia and Japan beat the Socceroos to the two automatic qualification places in their group meaning that their third-place finish would see them play the other third place team from the other AFC World Cup qualification group to decide who would compete in the intercontinental play-offs.
The United Arab Emirates stood in the of Australia and the AFC’s intercontinental play-off place in a fixture that was played last Tuesday. Goals from Jackson Irvine and Ajdin Hrustic helped Australia to a 2-1 victory which set up their tie with Peru.
Peru qualified for the play-offs after finishing 5th in the CONMEBOL World Cup qualification group. The four automatic qualification places were claimed by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Ecuador.
Australia have qualified for the last four World Cup finals whilst Peru have only qualified for one World Cup since 1982, although they did qualify for the most recent World Cup. Australia left the OFC in 2006 to join AFC and since this move of confederations they have qualified for every tournament.
Australia and Peru have faced each other just the once in their history but funnily enough, this came in the group stages of the 2018 World Cup. Peru won the game 2-0 but the win ultimately meant nothing as they finished third in their group and failed to progress to the knockout stage, Australia finished bottom of the group meaning they also bowed out at the group stage.
The winners of this intercontinental play-off tie will face France, Denmark and Tunisia in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup. This is another funny throwback to the 2018 World Cup because France and Denmark were the other two teams in Australia and Peru’s group.
Costa Rica vs New Zealand
Costa Rica have qualified for the last two World Cup’s but they haven’t gone via the Intercontinental play-offs route, instead they manged to qualify automatically. The last time Costa Rica made an appearance in the play-offs was for the 2010 World Cup where they were defeated 2-1 on aggregate by Uruguay.
Costa Rica finished fourth in the final group stage of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, missing out on automatic qualification on goal difference. Canada, Mexico and the USA took the automatic qualification places but Costa Rica came close to taking the last automatic place off the USA on the final matchday. Costa Rica defeated the USA 2-0 to move level on points with them but the United States goal difference was vastly superior, they would’ve had to win the game by 6 goals to progress.
New Zealand are very familiar with the intercontinental play-offs because the OFC doesn’t have any automatic qualification places for the World Cup so the only to qualify from this region is via the play-offs, this is one of the reasons why Australia switch to the AFC.
Since Australia’s confederation switch in 2006, New Zealand have qualified for the Intercontinental play-offs for all of the following World Cup’s but they only qualified for the 2010 World Cup.
In the 2010 play-offs they beat Bahrain 1-0 on aggregate, in the 2014 play-offs they lost to Mexico 9-3 on aggregate and in the 2018 play-offs they lost 2-0 to Peru on aggregate.
New Zealand topped their group in qualifying and then won the OFC play-offs to reach this stage. They beat the Solomon Islands 5-0 in the OFC play-off final back in March.
At Costa Rica’s most recent World Cup appearance in 2018, they finished bottom of their group whilst New Zealand finished third in their group at their most recent World Cup appearance in 2010. Despite not progressing from the group stage, New Zealand were the only side that went undefeated at the 2010 World Cup after drawing all their group games. The eventual champions Spain lost their opening group game to Switzerland.
This play-off fixture will be the first time that the two countries will face off in a competitive match, the only other time two have played each other was a friendly back in 2007, Costa Rica won the match 4-0.
The winners of this intercontinental play-off tie will face Spain, Germany and Japan in the group stage of the 2022 World Cup.