Italy miss out on World Cup qualifying seeding after Portugal defeat
Italy face the prospect of a difficult World Cup qualifying draw after they lost to Portugal 1-0 in an international friendly on Tuesday.
Antonio Conte's Italy went into the game in Geneva in the knowledge that nothing less than a victory would give them the Ranking points they required to climb above Croatia and be seeded in pot 1 for the draw in St Petersburg on July 25.
But Portugal, who were without the rested Cristiano Ronaldo, needed only one goal from Eder in the 52nd minute to help end a 39-year wait for a victory over Italy.
It means that Italy, who will be joined in pot 2 by France, could be drawn with one of their fellow European heavyweights in either Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, England, Portugal or Spain. They will hope to get lucky and be in a group with either Romania or Wales, who are the other nations in pot 1.
Possible horror World Cup qualifying draw: Germany, Italy or France, Sweden, Turkey, Armenia, Kazakhstan. Only group winners qualify auto.- Dale Johnson (@dalejohnsonESPN) June 16, 2015
Only the group winners are guaranteed to qualify for Russia 2018, with the best the runners-up can hope for being a playoff. In qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, France were drawn with Spain and only made it to Brazil after defeating Ukraine in a playoff.
Even though Italy reached the final of the European Championship in 2012, the Ranking points from that tournament are now only worth 20 percent of the total score. And Italy's dismal record in international friendlies means they have slipped out of Europe's top nine despite being undefeated in qualifying for Euro 2016.
The pots for the draw will be as follows:
Pot 1: Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Romania, England, Wales, Portugal, Spain, Croatia
Pot 2: Italy, Slovakia, Austria, Switzerland, Czech Republic, France, Iceland, Denmark, Bosnia-Herzegovina
Pot 3: Poland, Ukraine, Scotland, Hungary, Sweden, Albania, N Ireland, Serbia, Greece
Pot 4: Turkey, Slovenia, Israel, Republic of Ireland, Norway, Bulgaria, Faroe Islands, Montenegro, Estonia
Pot 5: Cyprus, Latvia, Armenia, Finland, Belarus, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Moldova
Pot 6: Kazakhstan, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Georgia, Malta, San Marino, Andorra
Dale Johnson has been an editor and journalist at ESPN for 18 years. You can follow him on Twitter @dalejohnsonESPN.