With a 2-0 win over North Macedonia in Porto, Bruno Fernandes scored twice to send Portugal to the 2022 World Cup.
After defeating Italy 1-0 in the semi-final with a stoppage-time winner, North Macedonia entered the play-off final hoping for another major shock.
Portugal, on the other hand, had different plans, as Fernandes scored in both halves to secure Portugal’s berth in Qatar. Since 1998, they have qualified for every World Cup and will be the top seed in the draw on Friday.
In the build-up, Cristiano Ronaldo declared that this was the “game of our life,” and the pressure may have shown as Portugal got off to a poor start.
North Macedonia smoothly moved the ball around, but they were given a fright after 15 minutes. Otavio sent a fantastic ball through to Ronaldo, who had just the goalie to beat but hit the far post with his shot.
Soon after, Diogo Jota could have given the home team the lead with a header that went down into the ground and over the bar, however, Portugal did score as a result of a merciless penalty kick.
Stefan Ristokvski made a terrible pass straight to Fernandes, then played a fantastic one-two with Ronaldo before firing the ball into the bottom corner to restore the party mood in the crowd.
Jota might have increased the advantage before the interval, but his shot was deflected into the side-netting as he lost his balance, and Portugal dominated the first half.
In the second half, North Macedonia enjoyed plenty of possession while the hosts sat back, nervously holding on to what they had.
As the visitors poured men forward, space opened up for them, and they took full advantage midway through the second quarter.
Portugal took the lead thanks to a wonderful challenge from Pepe, a lovely pass over the top from Jota for Fernandes, and his half-volley past Stole Dimitrievski was just perfect as he grabbed his second of the night to put his team in total control.
After Fernandes squared the ball for his Manchester United teammate, Darko Velkovski executed a fantastic challenge to prevent Ronaldo a tap-in.
On this occasion, there would be no goal for Ronaldo, and no late heroics from North Macedonia, as Portugal comfortably saw out the last minutes to secure their spot in Qatar at the end of the year. They surely have the ability to make the trip a success.