Euro 2020 champions Italy are one of 12 nations in the play-off draw
By the time Qatar 2022 comes around, Wales will have waited 64 years to play in a World Cup.
Scotland’s 24-year absence pales in comparison. But both teams are now just two games away from ending that torment and will await Friday’s play-off draw with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.
Impressive results in their final group games against Belgium and Denmark respectively ensured Wales and Scotland will be seeded when the fixtures are decided from 16:00 GMT.
But how does it all work? And what might await both sides?
Sobering times on world stage
First, a brief history lesson. Wales, remarkably, have only played at one World Cup.
That came in 1958, when group-stage draws with Hungary, Mexico and Sweden, then a play-off win over Hungary, earned a quarter-final meeting with eventual winners Brazil.
The scorer of the only goal in that tie? A 17-year-old called Pele.
Scotland’s history with the tournament is far richer – even if those memories have faded a little – with eight appearances at the big show between 1954 and 1998.
None have been particularly successful, with assorted calamities befalling a succession of talented squads, the most recent the 1998 jamboree in France.
How does the draw work?
There will be 12 countries in Friday’s draw, with the six seeded teams hosting the six unseeded sides in the semi-finals. So far, so simple.
But the draw will be split into three paths, each containing two semis. The winners of those ties will meet to decide who will claim one of the three places in Qatar. Got it?
So by the time the draw is done on Friday each nation will know their semi-final opponents and which two teams would then stand between them and a place at the World Cup.
Oh, and the seedings are forgotten for the three finals, with order of the draw determining which sides are at home.
The semi-finals and finals will take place over the course of five days from March 24 to 29.
So who could Wales and Scotland get in the semis?
Wales’ 1-1 draw with Belgium and Scotland’s 2-0 win over Denmark means both will host an unseeded nation.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy… Austria, North Macedonia, Turkey,…