MATCHDAY: Portugal-NMacedonia, Poland-Sweden in WC playoffs
A look at the two playoff finals in World Cup qualifying in Europe on Tuesday:
POLAND vs. SWEDEN
Poland and Sweden are looking to make it to back-to-back World Cups when they meet in Chorzow. Poland received a bye to the final after Russia was disqualified from the playoffs following the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Sweden got there by beating the Czech Republic 1-0 after extra time on Thursday. At 40, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is looking to play in what will likely be his final World Cup and will start on the bench for Sweden. He is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury. His fellow striker, Robert Lewandowski, should be fit for Poland after being left out of the 2-2 draw against Scotland in a friendly on Thursday having experienced knee tendon problems. Teammate Krzysztof Piatek needed stitches in a leg wound during the Scotland game but trained on Monday.
PORTUGAL vs. NORTH MACEDONIA
Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo face North Macedonia needing to avoid an upset like the one that ended Italy’s hopes of making it to the World Cup. North Macedonia stunned Italy last week in Palermo and faces Portugal in Porto to try to make it to the finals for the first time. Portugal is seeking its sixth straight World Cup appearance, and Ronaldo his 10th consecutive participation in major tournaments. He would be aged 41 by the 2026 World Cup if Portugal fails to make it past North Macedonia this time. Portugal coach Fernando Santos will have a more complete squad for the match at Estádio do Dragão as defenders Pepe and João Cancelo are back after missing the 3-1 win against Turkey. Pepe tested positive for COVID-19 and Cancelo was suspended.
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