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World Cup play-off semi-finals: Wins for North Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden, Wales

North Macedonia stunned Italy and Gareth Bale struck twice for Wales, on a night when Portugal and Sweden also won through to the play-off finals.

North Macedonia secured a shock victory away to Italy
North Macedonia secured a shock victory away to Italy Getty Images

North Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden and Wales are one game away from the FIFA World Cup after winning their play-off semi-finals on Thursday. UEFA.com wraps up the action.

World Cup play-offs

Semi-final results
Path A: Wales 2-1 Austria
Path B: Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic (aet)
Path C: Portugal 3-1 Turkey, Italy 0-1 North Macedonia

The winners of Thursday's games are through to the play-off finals:

Tuesday 29 March
Path B
: Poland vs Sweden (20:45 CET)
Path C
: Portugal vs North Macedonia (20:45 CET)

Postponed, date tbc
Path A: Wales vs Scotland / Ukraine

The 22nd finals in Qatar will be the first World Cup not held in May, June or July; the tournament is instead scheduled for a reduced time frame between 21 November and 18 December. The draw will take place on Friday 1 April.

Path A

Wales 2-1 Austria

Highlights: Wales 2-1 Austria

Wales captain Gareth Bale scored two superb goals in Cardiff to send his side through to the Path A play-off final. After Christoph Baumgartner's fifth-minute strike rattled the crossbar for the visitors, Wales dominated much of the first half. Bale curled in a pinpoint free-kick to put the hosts ahead and added a second after the break with a dazzling finish. Marcel Sabitzer's 65th-minute reply gave Austria hope, but Wales held on to set up a decider against Scotland or Ukraine.

Key stat: Bale has been directly involved in more Wales goals than any other player in 2022 World Cup qualifying (five goals, three assists).

The other Path A play-off semi-final, between Scotland and Ukraine, has been postponed.

How World Cup qualifying works

Path B

Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic (aet)

Highlights: Sweden 1-0 Czech Rep

Clear chances were at a premium throughout a tense contest at the Friends Arena in Solna, Dejan Kulusevski twice going close for the home side in the first half while Czech substitute Milan Havel volleyed over a glorious opportunity in the final seconds of normal time. That miss proved costly in the 110th minute, Sweden substitute Robin Quaison playing a one-two with Alexander Isak and calmly slotting in his 12th goal for his country.

The winners will take on Poland – who received a bye – in the Path B play-off final.

Key stat: Sweden have now won their last ten home matches.

Path C

Italy 0-1 North Macedonia

Highlights: Italy 0-1 North Macedonia

Aleksandar Trajkovski struck in added time as North Macedonia stunned Italy to set up a play-off final against Portugal. Italy dominated much of the game but were unable to find a breakthrough, with the best chance of either half falling to Domenico Berardi. The Azzurri were made to pay in the 92nd minute when Trajkovski fired in a low shot from 25 metres out.

Key stat: Italy are the fourth EURO holders to fail to qualify for the next World Cup, after Czechoslovakia (1978), Denmark (1994) and Greece (2006).

Portugal 3-1 Turkey

Highlights: Portugal 3-1 Turkey

Portugal survived a late scare to make it through to the Path C play-off final. Otávio put them ahead from a rebound after a Bernardo Silva shot had struck the post, and the Porto man then hung up a cross for Diogo Jota to head in just before the break. Though Burak Yılmaz pulled one back, the Turkey captain missed from the spot late on to allow Matheus Nunes to steady lingering nerves deep in added time.

Key stat: Portugal remain a bogey team for Turkey; they have lost all six of their competitive games against the Seleção, conceding 14 goals and scoring just twice.

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