Italy in World Cup play-offs thanks to Belgium

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Italy is assured of a FIFA World Cup play-off place after Belgium's dramatic victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The Azzurri, who will be one of eight teams to contest the UEFA play-offs in a bid to reach next year's tournament in Russia, became certain of finishing second in Group G on Saturday (AEST).

That was a result of Spain winning at 3-0 at home to Albania, while Italy slumped to a 1-1 draw against Macedonia in Turin.

But Italy was not assured of a spot in the play-offs until Belgium's thrilling 4-3 win in Sarajevo ensured there was no way Bosnia-Herzegovina, currently the bottom-ranked second-place side, could catch them.

In a complex system that sees results against each group's bottom side removed in a league table, eight of the best nine runners-up reach the play-offs.

Of those eight sides, the four to win their ties will join the nine group winners and host Russia as Europe's representatives at the tournament.

Italy is bidding to qualify for a 14th consecutive FIFA World Cup, having not failed to play at the finals since 1958.