Bruno Fernandes grabbed a brace as Portugal secured a 2-0 win over North Macedonia on Tuesday to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
The Manchester United midfielder scored a goal in each half as Portugal booked his place for Qatar later that year.
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Portugal have thus qualified for the World Cup for the sixth time in a row. It is likely Cristiano Ronaldo’s last for his country, although he has dismissed reports of a pre-playoff retirement.
“Goal scored,” Ronaldo said on Instagram after the game. “We made it to the World Cup in Qatar. We are where we deserve to be.”
Macedonia could not repeat the shock victory against European champions Italy, but showed a good figure over 90 minutes.
“This win will remain a special place for me because we achieved our goal,” said Fernandes in his post-match interview. “That was the most important thing. I think Portugal played better.
“We’ve shown better performances before, but this is one of the highlights because it guarantees access to the World Cup.Bruno Fernandes was the hero for Portugal as his double secured his spot for the 2022 World Cup. Getty
“The most 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. Every player likes to score. But the main goal .” is to help wherever I can. I have done and have done so in the past.”
Portugal took the lead after 22 minutes when Fernandes intercepted a poor pass in midfield and traded a pass with Ronaldo before putting in a nice finish in the corner.
Portugal controlled the game from that moment and doubled their lead in the second half after 65 minutes when Fernandes completed a nice counterattack from close range.
Portugal, cheered on by 50,000 fans at the packed Dragao Stadium in Porto, dominated the game from the start but struggled to break through the strong North Macedonia defense and managed just three shots on target despite having almost 70% possession.
Fernando Santos’ side then counted down time and celebrated after the final whistle with their gleeful fans, who stayed in the stands for more than 15 minutes after the game and sang as the players completed a lap of honor with a giant Portugal flag.
Portugal, who won the European Championship in France in 2016, qualified for a World Cup for the sixth straight year and have not missed a major international competition in the last 20 years.
They were pushed into the playoffs after finishing runners-up in Group A after losing their last home game to Serbia 2-1 last November.
This required them to win back-to-back eliminations to qualify, with last week’s win over Turkey, where they survived late drama, setting up a decider against Macedonia.
It was a tense affair in Porto on Tuesday but Portugal dominated and avoided surprises from the underdogs who were unable to find a shot.
“My players showed fantastic attitude,” said Santos. “There was a sense of community, we dominated, we created chances and we scored. The fans were fantastic. It’s a deserved win.
“We fully deserve to be in the World Cup. My conscience is clear. I’ve already won two competitions [Euro 2016 and UEFA Nations League 2019] and I dream a lot about winning a third.”