World Cup play-offs: Italy faces Swedish challenge, Croatia takes on Greece

The draw for Europe's World Cup play-offs saw Italy paired with Sweden in the pick of the ties as eight nations bid to reach Russia.

Italy's Gianluigi Buffon will face a stiff challenge when his side takes on Sweden in the World Cup Play-offs.   -  Getty Images

With only four spots up for grabs for European teams to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, all eyes were on Tuesday's draw for Europe's play-offs fixtures.

The eight teams in the draw were the four seeded teams of Switzerland, Italy, Croatia and Denmark, while the other four teams were Northern Ireland, Greece, Republic of Ireland and Italy.

Italy finished as runners-up to Spain in qualification Group G and must now pass a tough two-legged test against Sweden if it is to reach a 15th consecutive World Cup, with the 2018 edition in Russia beginning next June.

READ: Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, Denmark seeded for World Cup play-offs

Republic of Ireland faces the lowest-ranked of the seeded teams in Denmark, who lost out to Poland in its qualifying group.

Northern Ireland finished behind world champion Germany but ahead of nations like the Czech Republic and Norway in the group stage. It now faces a tough test against the Swiss, the highest-ranked team in the play-offs at number 11.

Croatia meets near neighbours Greece, who at 47 in the world is comfortably the lowest-ranked of all eight sides in the draw.

The first leg of the play-off ties will be played over November 9-11, with the second legs promptly following on November 12-14.

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Four nations will emerge from the ties to join France, Portugal, Germany, Serbia, Poland, England, Spain, Belgium, Iceland and host Russia as the 14 European representatives at the tournament.

European World Cup play-off draw in full:

Northern Ireland vs Switzerland
Croatia vs Greece
Denmark vs Republic of Ireland
Sweden vs Italy

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