- Portugal has qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a 2-0 win over outclassed North Macedonia.
- Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes scored both goals for Portugal.
- Portugal has qualified for the World Cup for the sixth consecutive time.
Portugal has been a fixture at the World Cup over the past couple of decades, though podium level success as been elusive. Their best finish during this stretch was a fourth place result in the 2006 World Cup. With speculation that this could be ageless Cristiano Ronaldo’s last appearance in international competition, Portugal has locked up their sixth consecutive World Cup qualification by virtue of a 2-0 win over game but outclassed North Macedonia in front of nearly 50,000 fans at Estádio do Dragão in Porto.
North Macedonia was coming off a massive upset win over Italy but were unable to replicate that result here. They played well on defense and kept the home side at bay despite Portugal holding a 70% possession advantage. Otherwise, it was all Portugal and with no offense from North Macedonia the result was not unexpected. Portugal finally broke through at 22 minutes after Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes intercepted an errant clearing pass at midfield and did a bit of a ‘give and go’ with Ronaldo before finishing with a shot into the corner of the net.
Portugal was content to play possession football from that point, knowing that eventually an opportunity would present itself. That opportunity came on a counter attack with Fernandes once again finishing from close range. For the game, Portugal would finish with 11 shots but only 3 on target–a testament to the tough defense of the visitor. Then again, since North Macedonia had only 3 shots with none on target the home team was never really threatened.
After the game, Ronaldo posted a celebratory message on Instagram:
“Goal accomplished. We made it to the World Cup in Qatar. We are where we deserve to be.”
Bruno Fernandes sounded a similar message in his postgame intereview:
“This win will remain in a special place for me because we have achieved our aim. That was the most important thing. I think Portugal played better. We’ve had better performances, but this is one of the highlights because it guarantees access to the World Cup.”
“The important thing is to help the team. I’m not here to score, I’m here to help. If I can help with goals, I’m happy to do so. Any player likes to score. But the main aim is to help however I can. That’s what I did and what I have done in the past.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos praised his players mental approach to the game:
“My players showed a fantastic attitude,” Santos said. “There was a sense of collectiveness, we dominated, we created chances and we scored. The fans were fantastic. It’s a deserved win.”
“We fully merit to be in the World Cup. My conscience is clear. I have already won two competitions [Euro 2016 and UEFA Nations League 2019] and I dream a lot of winning a third.”
Portugal is an eighth choice in the current World Cup soccer odds at +1500. Brazil (+550), France (+600) and England (+700) are favored ahead of Germany (+800), Spain (+800), Argentina (+1000) and Belgium (+1000).