Bruno Fernandes sent Portugal to the World Cup with a double in their play-off final win over North Macedonia

March 30th, 2022

Fernandes won the ball in midfield, played a one-two with Manchester United team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo and fired home from the edge of the box to open the scoring in Porto.

He then volleyed in Diogo Jota’s cross for the second having helped start the move himself outside his own box.

The Macedonians, who stunned Italy in the semis, offered little throughout.

They never looked like reaching a first World Cup and failed to test Portugal goalkeeper Diogo Costa once.

Portugal qualify for their sixth World Cup in a row with Ronaldo, 37, going to the tournament for a fifth and potentially final time.

Fernando Santos has led his country to Euro 2016 and the 2019 Nations League and is now targeting their first ever World Cup crown.

“I have already won two competitions and I hope I can win the third one in Qatar,” coach Santos said.

“There was a spirit of mutual help and great support from the public. It was a deserved and fair win and qualification. I don’t remember any great goalscoring situations for their team.”

Portugal get there eventually

Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe
Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe have played 334 games together for Real Madrid and Portugal

Portugal sealed their World Cup spot four and a half months after they had hoped to. They were seconds away from winning their group before Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 90th-minute goal sent Serbia through instead.

They rode their luck a bit in the semi-final against Turkey, who missed a penalty at 2-1, before Portugal netted late to make it 3-1.

But there was no real drama this time in Porto as they outclassed North Macedonia, ranked 67th in the world, who had given everything they had to knock out Italy last week.

For several of this Portugal squad, Qatar will be their final World Cup and possibly major tournament.

Striker and captain Ronaldo had a good chance to open the scoring but fired wide from Otavio’s through ball, before setting up Fernandes’ opener.

Defender Pepe, 39, denied Eljif Elmas a rare Macedonian chance with an excellent block in the second half.

Joao Moutinho, at 35, is approaching the end of his international career too. The trio have more than 450 combined caps.

They should have won this game by more with Jota heading over and hitting the side-netting.

But now on to Qatar where they will be considered among the potential winners of the only major tournament that has evaded Ronaldo in his career.

They are likely to be among the top seeds in Friday’s draw in Doha.

Fernandes said: “The most important thing is that Portugal won. Everyone has ambition, Cristiano and I are no exception. Usually he scores and I assist, but today it was the other way around.

“For me, the most important thing is to help the team – if possible with goals. Of course we all like to score in every game, whether it’s the most important game or the least important.

“I keep in mind our coach’s ideas and that’s probably why I’ve scored this double, from doing what the coach asks of me.”


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