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First team

Cherries duo on World Cup collision course

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AFC Bournemouth AFC Bournemouth

AFC Bournemouth team-mates Chris Mepham and Ryan Christie are on a World Cup finals collision course.

Mepham’s Wales will meet Austria in their play-off semi-final, while Christie’s Scotland face Ukraine – with the winners duelling for a place in Qatar.

Both Wales and Scotland were seeded in Friday’s draw and will have home advantage in their last-four encounters. Wales would also host Scotland if both nations were to go through.

The semi-finals and finals, both played over one leg, will take place over the course of five days between 24th-29th March 2022.

Wales are bidding to reach their first World Cup finals in 64 years, while Scotland have waited 24 years to play in one.

The other semi-finals will see Italy host North Macedonia, Portugal entertain Turkey, Russia travel to Poland and Sweden welcome Czech Republic.

Mepham has been a cornerstone of the Wales defence and featured in seven of their World Cup qualifiers as they finished as runners-up to Group A winners Belgium.

Although Wales had already guaranteed a play-off place thanks to their success in the Nations League, they sealed home advantage in the semi-final after drawing 1-1 with Belgium earlier this month when Mepham earned his 26th cap.

Discussing the prospect of being at a World Cup finals this time next year, Mepham said: “It would be amazing. Coming away from the Euros, the feeling everyone had was they wanted more of it.

“A lot of build up goes into tournament football and then one game and it’s over.

“Certainly for me, going away was an amazing experience and something I want to experience more going forward.

“An opportunity for Wales to be in a World Cup finals is incredible. For a fairly small nation to be competing on the main stage against the biggest countries in the world would be a massive honour and, hopefully, we can progress.”

Christie, capped 26 times at senior level, featured in eight of Scotland’s qualifiers as they secured a play-off semi-final spot after finishing as runners-up to Denmark in Group F.

The 26-year-old started when Scotland concluded their group games with a 2-0 win over the previously-unbeaten Danes at Hampden Park earlier this month.

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