2022 World Cup qualifying: What next for Wales in March play-offs?

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Wales have taken a step closer to qualifying for a World Cup for the first time since their only previous appearance in 1958, and are now just two games away from next year’s tournament in Qatar.

Robert Page’s side are through to the play-offs and, thanks to Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Belgium, they will be at home in March’s semi-final.

As both semi-finals and finals will be played over one leg, home advantage is more important than ever, particularly as it means Wales have managed to avoid the possibility of daunting away ties against current European champions Italy or Euro 2016 winners Portugal.

The other seeded teams playing at home in the semi-finals will be Scotland, Russia and Sweden.

Wales’ semi-final opponents will be one of Turkey, Poland, North Macedonia, Ukraine, Austria and the Czech Republic.

The draw for the play-off semi-finals and finals will be made on 26 November.

“I could not be more proud of the players. They’ve done the country proud,” said Page.

“I was a blubbering wreck. It was an emotional time of just telling the players how proud I am.

“If I could get you to understand the dynamics of that group of players in there, the camaraderie they’ve got, the team spirit, it’s unbelievable.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced before. To be part of that makes me truly proud to lead them.”

After Tuesday’s draw at a raucous Cardiff City Stadium, Belgium manager Roberto Martinez praised the “fantastic atmosphere” generated by Wales’ fans.

“It’s fair to say when Wales are at home, they’ve got an extra threat,” said the former Swansea City boss.

“It makes a big difference for Wales now to go into the play-offs and be able to play at home.

“I would say without the crowd that maybe we don’t concede that goal. Every time the ball goes into the box or every time the ball goes to a certain player’s feet, those emotions can give you an extra step.”

Page agreed, adding: “I want to take this opportunity to thank our supporters. In the last two games they’ve been exceptional.

“When they were singing the anthem at the end, their support for us, I’ve been there as a player myself and it absolutely helps

“We look forward to the home tie now. They were fantastic and certainly helped us achieve that.”

How do the play-offs work?

The 12 teams in the play-offs are comprised of the 10 runners-up in Europe’s World Cup qualifying groups and the two highest-ranked sides from the Nations League who finished outside the top two in their World Cup qualifying groups.

The play-offs are split into six single-leg semi-finals, with the six seeded teams at home.

The play-off semi-finals are split into three paths. The winners of semi-finals 1 and 2 meet in play-off final A, the winners of semi-finals 3 and 4 meet in play-off final B and the winners of semi-finals 5 and 6 meet in play-off final C.

For the play-off finals, also played over one leg, a draw is conducted in advance to determine which semi-final winner will play at home.

The semi-finals will be played between 24 and 25 March 2022 and the finals between 28 and 29 March.

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