CONCACAF got a break on Friday after it was determined that fourth-place qualifiers from North and Central America and the Caribbean will face Oceania in the Qatar 2022 Intercontinental Playoffs.
The draw at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich saw teams from AFC (Asia) and CONMEBOL (South America) advance to the second playoff.
The Intercontinental Playoffs will determine the final two sides for next year’s World Cup on a 32-country arena. The single-game playoffs will take place in Qatar on June 13 and 14, 2022. Previously they were the Home and Away series.
CONCACAF will likely signal a relief to avoid a fifth-place South American finisher. CONMEBOL teams have won seven of the 10 playoffs, including six of the last seven. And Asia got the best CONCACAF last time.
Only two points separate fourth-placed Colombia (No. 16) and eighth-placed Bolivia (No. 77) currently in South American qualifying, with Peru (No. 22), Chile (No. 24) and Uruguay (No. 17). in between.
New Zealand, at number 110, is the top-ranked team in Oceania, ahead of the Solomon Islands at number 141. The All Whites have represented Oceania in the last three playoffs, winning once.
The Canadian men, who have six games left to play, will try to avoid the playoffs by finishing in the top three coming March.
So far, so good. No. 40 Canada (4-0-4, 14 points) is currently at the top of the eight-team CONCACAF final qualifying round, ahead of 12th-ranked US (4-1-3, 15 points) and No. 14 Mexico and No. 4. Is leading. 63 Panama (both 4-2-2, 14 points).
The playoffs were originally scheduled for March, 2022, but were rescheduled due to the pandemic.
CONCACAF teams have won three of the six playoffs, with Mexico leading in 1962 and 2014 and Trinidad and Tobago in 2006.
Australia defeated Honduras 3–1 on aggregate, while Peru defeated New Zealand 2–0 in November 2017 to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
In the Intercontinental Playoffs before the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, Mexico beat New Zealand 9–3 on aggregate and Uruguay beat Jordan 5–0.
New Zealand managed to beat Bahrain 1–0 at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. In the second playoff, Uruguay defeated Costa Rica 2–1.
The European playoffs, also drawn on Friday, will be Scotland v Ukraine, Wales v Austria, Russia v Poland, Sweden v Czech Republic, Italy v North Macedonia and Portugal v Turkey.
12 teams are competing for three World Cup berths.
Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland and hosts Qatar have already qualified.