Women’s World Cup play-offs – how do they work?

Scotland and Wales are both hoping to join England in qualifying for next year’s World Cup

Scotland and Wales will both look to take one step closer to the 2023 Women’s World Cup this week as they aim to book their places in the finals of the play-offs.

Both teams are in action on Thursday, with Scotland taking on Austria and Wales facing Bosnia-Herzegovina in two of three European semi-finals.

What do they need to do to join England in qualifying for next year’s tournament in New Zealand and Australia? It’s not straightforward… here’s all you need to know.

Nine teams finished runners-up in the group stages of European qualifying for the World Cup and – based on performances in qualifying – the three top-seeded teams were given a bye to the finals.

Those top seeds were Iceland, Republic of Ireland and Switzerland, while the remaining six teams, including Scotland and Wales, went into the one-legged semi-finals.

If Scotland win their semi-final tie they would host the Republic of Ireland in the final, while a victory for Wales would see them travel to Switzerland.

A graphic showing play-off final fixtures and a picture of Republic of Ireland's Katie McCabe celebrating

However, winning the play-off final does not guarantee a spot at the World Cup as only two of the three play-off winners will automatically qualify.

The remaining team will have to play a third game in an inter-confederation play-off, which will take place in New Zealand in February 2023.

So how do they separate the three play-off winners?

They will be ranked according to qualifying performances and play-off resultsexternal-link – the latter will see them receive three points for a win or one point if the win is achieved via a penalty shootout.

Current rankings

Team Points Goal difference Goals scored
Switzerland 19 19 23
Iceland 18 22 25
Republic of Ireland 17 22 26
Austria 16 28 34
Belgium 16 23 30
Scotland 16 9 22
Portugal 16 9 18
Wales 14 8 13
Bosnia-Herzegovina 11 -8 9

The Republic of Ireland and Scotland are in stronger positions than Wales in the rankings and would almost certainly qualify if they win their final.

Wales are likely to be the side entering the inter-confederation play-offs, should they beat Bosnia-Herzegovina and Switzerland.

One scenario which would see them go through automatically would be if they won the final by two goals and Portugal or Scotland also won their play-off final – but only via a penalty shootout.

Bosnia and Herzegovina are the one side unable to finish as a top-two play-off winner – at best they can reach the inter-confederation play-offs.

The 10-team inter-confederation play-offs will also feature Chinese Taipei, Thailand, Cameroon, Senegal, Haiti, Panama, Chile, Paraguay, and Papua New Guinea.

Play-off fixtures

Play-off semi-finals (6 October, all times BST)

Portugal v Belgium (19:00)

Wales v Bosnia-Herzegovina (19:15)

Scotland v Austria (19:35)

Play-off finals (11 October)

Portugal or Belgium v Iceland (TBC)

Scotland or Austria v Republic of Ireland (TBC)

Switzerland v Wales or Bosnia-Herzegovina (19:00)

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