After the latest batch of FIFA World Rankings were released on Monday, the seedings for the UEFA 2018 World Cup two-leg playoffs have been determined.
Of the eight remaining European teams, the four highest-ranked teams will be seeded in Tuesday’s draw in Zurich, Switzerland, while the four lowest-ranked teams are unseeded. Northern Ireland dropped below Denmark in the latest rankings and they are now unseeded.
Dates for the home and away playoffs are as follows: First legs on Nov. 9-11. Second legs on Nov. 12-14.
Here are the eight teams who finished as the best runners up in the nine European qualifying groups for the World Cup and qualified for the playoffs, complete with their latest FIFA rankings and whether or not they will be seeded.
Northern Ireland (23)
Republic of Ireland (26)
Which team(s) will the seeded teems be hoping to get?
There’s no doubting Greece are the outliers here, with 11 other UEFA teams ranked higher than them who didn’t even qualify for the World Cup automatically or make the playoffs. The four seeded teams will want to play Greece or a Zlatan Ibrahimovic-less Sweden in the playoffs, no doubt.
Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland will be tough to play away from home with the intense atmosphere their fans create and their ability to stay in games, defend and hit teams on counter. Michael O’Neil and Martin O’Neil’s teams set to be set up perfectly for these one-off occasions.
The best possible draw for any of the unseeded teams appears to be Denmark. If you can stop Christian Eriksen creating chances, you can probably halt the Danes. Nicklas Bendtner will pose a threat but you have to think that the unseeded teams would fancy their chances of nicking qualification if they can beat the low-scoring Danes at home in the first leg and then travel to Copenhagen with something to protect.
Here’s my ideal draw, purely from a neutrals perspective.
JPW’s European playoff “dream” draw
Italy vs. Republic of Ireland
Switzerland vs. Sweden
Croatia vs. Greece
Denmark vs. Northern Ireland