Cristiano Ronaldo.

Six Reds facing date with World Cup destiny

Thursday 24 March 2022 12:00

The European World Cup play-offs take centre stage on Thursday night, with six Reds facing crucial matches in their bid to reach the finals later this year in Qatar.

The semi-finals are eagerly anticipated, although Scotland's tie with Ukraine has been postponed, due to the war. Scott McTominay's side are instead taking on Poland in a friendly this evening.

While Russia's expulsion from the competition has handed Poland a bye to one of the play-off finals, there are still several games being staged this evening, all kicking off at 19:45 GMT.


There is huge focus on Portugal's prospects of making the finals with Cristiano Ronaldo, Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot in the squad for the clash with Turkey in Lisbon. A Bola newspaper expects all three Reds to make the starting XI, with Danilo dropping into defence in the absence of Joao Cancelo and Pepe.

Ronaldo is set to skipper the side and lead from the front, and he posted on social media: "It's no secret to anyone: representing my country is always a very special moment for me." In a message to the fans, he continued: "Believe in us, believe in our national team. We will do everything to respond to your support."

If Portugal get past Turkey at the Estadio do Dragao, they will face the victors of Italy's home game with North Macedonia in a winner-takes-all scenario next Tuesday night.


Sweden also have a crunch clash, facing Czech Republic in Stockholm. Victor Lindelof is expected to captain the team and Anthony Elanga looks set to be on the bench as he hopes to make his senior international debut.

There has been talk that Lindelof could start at full-back due to concerns over Ludwig Augustinsson and Daniel Sundgren, with Emil Krafth suspended. "I do what is best for the team," said Victor. "I've played right-back before, when I was younger, but centre-back is my real position." However, he is now tipped to play alongside Joakim Nilsson in the middle, with Marcus Danielson and Martin Olsson in the full-back slots. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is banned.

The prize for the winners at the Friends Arena is a final against Poland as part of Path B.

Victor Lindelof is set to play in the middle of the defence.


United midfielder Dylan Levitt, who is impressing on loan at Dundee United, is part of the Wales squad for the big tie with Austria. 

The Dragons are striving to reach the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 and Levitt is likely to be on the bench, although Joe Morrell is suspended. Nottingham Forest youngster Brennan Johnson, son of former United youth-team striker David, is in contention to feature.

Scotland or Ukraine will play the victors in the final, on a date to be decided in June.

Best of luck to all six Reds!