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Portugal 2-0 North Macedonia: 5 talking points as Bruno Fernandes brace seals qualification for Selecao | 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers

Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
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Shubham Dupare

Portugal are through to the 2022 FIFA World Cup after overcoming North Macedonia 2-0 at a soldout Estadio do Dragao on Tuesday. Bruno Fernandes scored a brace in a dominant performance as the hosts beat a brave North Macedonia side.

Selecao veterans Pepe, Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Moutinho all started in this playoff final, putting in solid shifts. The trio will look to play a key role at the finals in November.

Portugal qualify for the 2022 World Cup πŸ†Cristiano Ronaldo is set for his fifth appearance at the tournament 🌏 https://t.co/BOwE4Wefx3

The visitors lived up to their reputation built during the ongoing qualification campaign. North Macedonia made the hosts work for their two goals, which came from just three shots on target.

Nevertheless, with Portugal securing their place in the World Cup with a dominant win, here's a look at five talking points from the game:


#5 Portugal do not repeat Italy's mistakes against North Macedonia

Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Portugal knew what was at stake, and having watched Italy get eliminated by the visitors, did not take the visitors lightly. The decision proved a smart one, as the Macedonians were gritty in their approach and rarely committed any mistakes.

The first goal was a direct result of a poor pass from Macedonian captain Stefan Ristokvski, though, and it was punished by the hosts. Pepe ensured discipline at the back for Portugal, and their defenders quickly retained shape after linking up in attack.

The Selecao had just three shots on target against their stubborn visitors but made the opportunities count, scoring from two of them. While the Risovi put in a solid display, they were no match for the EURO 2016 winners on the night.


#4 Bruno Fernandes shines with two precise strikes

Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

Bruno Fernandes was the star man for Portugal in the decisive playoff game, scoring a goal in each half. The first one in the 32nd minute was the result of a brilliant one-two with Ronaldo after Ristokvski had given the ball away.

RONALDO SETS UP FERNANDES!PORTUGAL LEAD OVER NORTH MACEDONIA πŸ‡΅πŸ‡Ή https://t.co/VzJHLIZE5D

The second in the 65th minute was an even better one. Fernandes started the move from his own half, recovering the ball near the box. He played the ball up front and made a run into the final third. Diogo Jota set him up with a cross, which Fernandes converted from close range on the volley.

The midfielder has been consistent for Manchester United and can take some pressure off Ronaldo in the national team as well.


#3 Portugal qualify for their sixth consecutive World Cup

Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

The hosts might have had to wait four months, but they have eventually made it to the World Cup finals. This will be the Selecao's sixth consecutive appearance in the competition, their longest such streak in history, having qualified just twice before the 2002 edition.

Interestingly, they have qualified for every major international competition after 1998. It's a testament to the quality of players produced by the Iberian nation. It remains to be seen if the Selecao can improve their fourth-placed finish in the 2006 edition at this year's finals.


#2 North Macedonia fail to test Portugal defence

Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier
Portugal vs North Macedonia: Knockout Round Playoffs - 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier

North Macedonia had a similar game plan against the Selecao as they had in their 1-0 win over Italy. They let the hosts have possession and defended well. One major difference in this game was that Portugal were more potent in their attacks and the visitors struggled on the counters.

They failed to secure a single shot on target and had just 35% possession. The Selecao played with a four-man defence, which effectively shielded them against any potential counter-attacks.

Kudos to North Macedonia for playing to their strengths. However, they came up short in the final third and have only themselves to blame for that.


#1 The Cristiano Ronaldo factor comes into play again

Ronaldo provided an assist in the game.
Ronaldo provided an assist in the game.

Cristiano Ronaldo said before the game that it was the match of their lives for the Portuguese players as he rallied the home fans behind the team. While he did not score in the game, he picked up an assist for the first goal.

The 37-year-old started both the qualifying games this month, playing the full 90 minutes in both, The only outfield Portugal player to do so was Danilo Perreira, driving home Ronaldo's importance for the national team.

Portugal before Ronaldo:Only qualified for 3 World CupsOnly qualified for 3 EurosNo major trophiesPortugal since Ronaldo:Qualified for 5 World CupsQualified for 5 EurosWon 2 major trophies https://t.co/eUJgKylGb0

Ronaldo ended the qualifying campaign as the top scorer for his country, scoring six goals, and will be expected to lead them in Qatar as well.


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Edited by Bhargav
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