MATCHDAY: Ukraine or Wales to World Cup; Spain in Prague
A look at what’s happening in European soccer on Sunday:
WORLD CUP PLAYOFF
The final European spot at the World Cup will be determined in Cardiff where Wales hosts a Ukraine side trying to deliver an uplifting sporting success amid the ongoing Russian invasion. After this last European playoff final — which was delayed by the war — the remaining two spots for the Qatar World Cup will be determined by intercontinental playoffs in Doha this month. Ukraine hasn’t qualified for a World Cup since its only showing in 2006. Wales has waited even longer to play again at the FIFA showpiece having last featured in 1958. The Welsh will have to beat Ukraine for the first time to qualify, having lost once and drawn twice in their previous encounters. Wales will be led by five-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale, whose playing future is uncertain after being released by Real Madrid. Qualifying for the World Cup could determine his next steps and the 32-year-old forward says he has “loads” of offers from clubs.
After conceding a late equalizer in its opener to Portugal, Spain travels to Prague facing a must-win situation in its bid to return to the Nations League final that it lost last year. The Czech Republic leads Group 2 of League A with three points after beating Switzerland 2-1 on Thursday, while Portugal and Spain have one point after drawing 1-1 in Seville. Portugal will host the last-placed Swiss in Lisbon in a strong position to take advantage of either another slip by Spain or a Spanish win over the Czechs that could let them move into first place. Cristiano Ronaldo played only the final half hour against Spain on Thursday. International soccer’s all-time leading scorer could be back in Fernando Santos’ lineup against Switzerland, but the coach said he will make “tweaks” only to his starting 11. The winners of the four groups of the Nations League top tier advance to the final-four finale.
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