Portugal is more than only Cristiano Ronaldo, and it is stronger as a result

Cristiano Ronaldo during Portugal v Turkey World Cup 2022 qualifier match
Cristiano Ronaldo during Portugal v Turkey World Cup 2022 qualifier match
Onuoha Ifeanyi

The dream of Cristiano Ronaldo playing his final World Cup match in Qatar is still alive. But that is only after Portugal survived the late drama in a dramatic 3-1 victory over Turkey in Porto.

Portugal has developed a habit of making life difficult for itself. They missed out on automatic qualification for Qatar 2022 after the 2-1 loss to Serbia in Lisbon last November.

The 2016 European winners will meet North Macedonia in another nerve-wracking match.

Is the match against North Macedonia going to be simple? Ask Italy, who will miss the World Cup for the second time after losing 0-1 to the underdogs in Palermo, on Thursday.

Portugal no longer dependent on Cristiano Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo played a key role in his team's victory over Turkey
Cristiano Ronaldo played a key role in his team's victory over Turkey

Fernando Santos' team will go into the match against North Macedonia with the belief that they can win regardless of whether Cristiano Ronaldo makes a crucial contribution.

The final whistle went and the Portugal manager wasted no time in celebrating, he hadn't even left the pitch. Stress reliever! πŸ˜‚…

For the first time since Ronaldo's record-breaking international career began, his country's fate does not rest solely on his shoulders.

Portugal made it to the World Cup Finals without adding to Cristiano Ronaldo's world-record tally of 115 international goals. The 37-year-old performed his role, but it was FC Porto's Otavio and Liverpool's Diogo Jota who scored the goals.

Who knows how Portugal would have handled the pressure of squandering another vital lead if Yilmaz had converted his penalty kick in the 86th minute. The remaining five minutes with the scores level would have been nerve-wracking.

But Portugal hung in there and eased their nerves with a third goal. They are now just 90 minutes away from a World Cup that Ronaldo has previously stated will be his last.

The good news for Portugal is that they can prepare for North Macedonia and, possibly, Qatar with a team capable of going all the way. Not because of Ronaldo, but because Portugal now have such a diverse pool of quality that they were able to beat Turkey despite missing numerous key players.

Injuries prevented Ruben Dias, Ruben Neves, Pedro Neto, Nelson Semedo, and Renato Sanches from participating in this match. Pepe and Joao Cancelo were also unavailable due to COVID-19 and suspension, respectively.

However, Jose Fonte, 38, was brought in to partner Danilo at the back, with Diogo Dalot filling in for Cancelo at right-back.

In the absence of Wolverhampton Wanderers colleague Neves, Joao Moutinho shone, anchoring a largely one-man midfield with Bernardo Silva and Bruno Fernandes.

Portugal had so many attacking options that they were able to start with Joao Felix on the bench, and Turkey struggled to keep up as the game progressed. Ronaldo demonstrated another aspect of his game by sliding deeper than normal and acting as a link between the lines.

The move for Portugal's second goal began with a flick to Fernandes and ended with Otavio crossing for Jota to head home at the far post in the 42nd minute.

In the 65th minute, Otavio scored on a rebound after Bernardo's attempt had hit the post.

Portugal will play North Macedonia for a place at the 2022 World Cup πŸ‡΅πŸ‡ΉπŸ‡²πŸ‡°

In the end, it doesn't matter who scored the goals as long as the team wins. However, opponents have known for years that if you stop Ronaldo, you've effectively stopped Portugal.

In this game, Turkey found that rationality no longer applies. Ronaldo is no longer the lifeblood of the team, and as a result, Portugal have become a more cohesive one.

The quality of Portugal's team implies that they will be a force to be reckoned with in Qatar, if they get beyond North Macedonia.

Cristiano Ronaldo has a habit of writing his own screenplay on important occasions. Winning a World Cup at the age of 37 would be a fitting end.

Portugal face a huge challenge next week. If they overcome it, don't underestimate their ability to provide Ronaldo with the fairy-tale conclusion he craves.

Edited by Akshay Saraswat


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