Portugal don’t care how they get to Qatar 2022, so long as they do. The first part of their World Cup play-off task has gone according to plan.
Portugal beat Turkey 3-1, surviving a late missed penalty from veteran Burak Yilmaz at 2-1 which could have sent the tie to a tense extra-time and even penalties.
Not a vintage night for Ronaldo and he won’t mind
Missing out on the World Cup is unthinkable for Cristiano Ronaldo, after his Portugal side fell to second place in their group after defeat to Serbia in November.
He was one of three Manchester United players starting this fixture, with both Bruno Fernandes and Diogo Dalot selected, while the number 7 was winning his 185th international cap.
As it turned out, it was Porto youngster Otavio who broke the deadlock early on, before Diogo Jota doubled Portugal’s lead before half-time.
Turkey then pulled a goal back midway through the second half to set up a tense finale, and a missed penalty which could have made it 2-2.
Ronaldo had a late chance to make it 3-1 but appeared to lose his footing when the goal was gaping and he ended the night without adding to his record of 115 international goals.
A minute later substitute Rafael Leao made it 3-1 to wrap up the win, and there was still time for Ronaldo to hit the bar when looking for a fourth.
Ronaldo wrote on Instagram: “The first step has been taken towards our great objective, towards the 2022 World Cup.
“Nothing is won, nothing is achieved. We have to continue to work in a serious and focused way, respecting the opponent but always believing in our abilities. Power Portugal! Go to Qatar!”
A tough match against Italy awaited in the final. Supposedly. But instead Portugal will face North Macedonia, and that really is the big story of the night.
Italy suffered a shock 1-0 defeat at home to North Macedonia tonight, after conceding a late injury-time goal, meaning the Euro 2020 winners will not take part in World Cup 2022.
Portugal won’t underestimate North Macedonia, but privately they will be relieved it is not Italy they are facing.
The final will be held in Portugal on Sunday night, with the winner booking a place in Qatar 2022.