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Italy boss reveals his least favourite draw for the World Cup playoffs

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Roberto Mancini hopes Italy will not face Ronaldo and co in the competition.

Italy were held to a goalless draw against Northern Ireland on Monday. The Azzurri missed their chance for automatic qualification as Switzerland finished above them with a 4-0 win over Bulgaria.

Italy will now have to go through a playoff tournament to secure their World Cup qualification. However, they might face serious competition as Portugal, Poland, and Sweden are also present in the playoffs.  

Cristiano Ronaldo and co lost their last qualifier against Serbia and finished second in Group I. However, Mancini hopes to avoid Portugal in the playoffs.

“If I had to pick one, I’d say Portugal,” the Italy manager said when he was asked about his least favourite draw.

Four new teams will qualify for the playoffs on Tuesday, with the draw taking place three days later. Despite his side’s recent run of bad results, Mancini is optimistic about their chances of qualification.

“We’ve still got a good chance of qualifying. We’ve only lost one of the last 40 games, so it’s important to always think positive. If we had to have a lull, I’d rather it was now than in March or when the World Cup comes around.”

The Italy boss added: “This squad is very good and it’s not a fluke that we won the Euros, nor were we very defensive in that tournament. We thoroughly deserved the trophy even against the best teams.

“There are moments in which we cannot give 100 per cent and this is one of them. If we reach March without this many injuries, then we can have our say against any opponent.”