A Bruno Fernandes double helped Portugal to seal a 2-0 win over North Macedonia on Tuesday night (29 March), securing their passage to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Having brushed Turkey aside in their World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final, the Selecao set up a winner-takes-all final against the giant-slaying minnows, North Macedonia. The Balkan outfit had beaten Italy in their qualifying semi-final and were looking to get the better of another European heavyweight. Unfortunately for the visitors, Cristiano Ronaldo’s side were in no mood to spoil the party in Porto on Tuesday night.
North Macedonia started the game brightly, taking the fight to the hosts right from the first blow of the whistle. The Selecao’s defense, however, held firm and denied the visitors any clear-cut goalscoring opportunities. Os Navegadores’ first big chance of the match fell to a certain Cristiano Ronaldo in the 13th minute. Unfortunately, he could only send his shot wide of the mark. The home team continued to threaten North Macedonia’s defense and ultimately had their breakthrough just past the half-hour mark, with Fernandes converting from close range following an erroneous Macedonian pass.
Having conceded the goal, the visitors tried to respond immediately but did not have the quality to make it happen. Fernando Santos’ side dominated proceedings in the second half and scored their second goal of the night through Fernandes again. The Manchester United man dispatched a sweet half volley to seal the deal for his country. The goal punctured North Macedonia’s confidence and they surrendered control of the game, allowing Portugal to cruise to a comfortable victory.
Below are five players who turned up big time to ensure Portugal’s sixth consecutive World Cup appearance:
#5 Diogo Jota
In the 65th minute, Jota found himself in space on the left flank. He instinctively put his head up and tracked Fernandes’ run down the middle. In a heartbeat, Jota found the United midfielder with an inch-perfect delivery, allowing the attacking midfielder to apply a comfortable right-footed finish.
The assist aside, the former Wolverhampton Wanderers man completed a dribble, won four duels, and routinely used his pace to trouble the Macedonian backline.