Where do Quarter Final contenders stand as Portugal and Italy face play-offs?

Where do Quarter Final contenders stand as Portugal and Italy face play-offs?


Where do Quarter Final contenders stand as Portugal and Italy face play-offs?


Holders France hopes to defend their title, but the two most recent European champions, Portugal and Italy, will have to compete in play-offs to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.


Fans now face the prospect of no Cristiano Ronaldo in Qatar next winter, as well as the Azzurri, who were thrilled during their run to Euro 2020 glory, potentially missing two consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history.


AFP Sport examines the current state of play for some of the biggest names who have secured their place on football's biggest stage.


France 


Les Bleus will be hoping for a more inspired defense of their world title than they did at Euro 2020, which resulted in a full-fledged crisis following their humiliating elimination at the hands of Switzerland.


Winning the Nations League re-energized Didier Deschamps' team, as did the outstanding performances of Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema that propelled them to the title.


Despite a wealth of world-class talent, France appears to be less than the sum of its parts.


England


England's talented pool of players should be one of the players to watch in Qatar after reaching the last four of the World Cup and losing the Euro finals on penalties at Wembley.


Gareth Southgate has a plethora of top-tier players from which to build a team that, as expected, breezed through a mostly weak qualifying group.


When the chips are down, a safety-first approach has held back the Three Lions' undeniable attacking threat, as well as one of Europe's best strikers in Harry Kane.


Spain


Luis Enrique's faith in Spain's seemingly never-ending supply of young talent appears to be paying off, with his team looking like a dark horse in Qatar after strong performances in both the Euro and the Nations League.


Spain impressed with their passing football and bold selection of inexperienced youngsters like Gavi in key roles, only losing to France in the Nations League final thanks to superb saves from Hugo Lloris and a Mbappe goal that they thought should have been chalked off for offside.


The one thing they don't have is a proven goal scorer, with Alvaro Morata still struggling up front.


Germany


Hansi Flick has Germany firing on all cylinders after taking over after their last-16 Euro 2020 exit at the hands of England, which ended Joachim Loew's 15-year reign.


Since Flick took over, the Germans have won six straight games, scoring 27 goals in the process, and they appear to be a revitalized squad ready to make a mark after poor performances in recent tournaments.


Brazil


Coach Tite can already begin planning for next winter's tournament after Brazil qualified with six games to spare last week, with a 1-0 win over Colombia ensuring Brazil's spot.


Following their 0-0 draw with fierce rivals Argentina on Tuesday, they have a comfortable six-point lead atop the 10-team CONMEBOL group.


Brazil will be difficult to beat, with only four goals conceded, and an attack led by Neymar posing a threat to anyone.


Argentina


Lionel Messi and his teammates are on a 27-match unbeaten streak after a 0-0 draw with Brazil on Tuesday, along with defeats for Chile and Uruguay, secured their place in Qatar.


Argentina's early World Cup qualification caps off a successful year in which they won their 15th Copa America title in July, defeating Brazil at Rio de Janeiro's iconic Maracana stadium.



It also provides Messi with one last opportunity to shine on the biggest stage of all, putting to rest the one doubt surrounding claims that he is the greatest ever player: unlike Diego Maradona, he has never truly done it at a World Cup.

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