Fernandes and Lewandowski send Portugal and Poland to Qatar

30/03/2022; 10:57 AM By : Steven D. Thompson

Lewandowski was in inspired form as he led the line in Poland’s win over Sweden.

The 32 teams for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar are almost complete. The European final play-offs are almost through, with Wales waiting in the wings for a resolution to the Scotland/Ukraine impasse, amid the controversy from Russia.

Portugal faced off with giant-killers North Macedonia, and Poland locked horns with Sweden.

Tuesday’s World Cup qualifying play-offs had all eyes on the tie between Portugal and North Macedonia. North Macedonia showed the world they had the stomach for a fight. Against the odds, they bundled European champions Italy out of the race for Qatar.

North Macedonia could dream of a first-ever World Cup appearance after the shock upset of Italy, but they had Portugal before them. Beating one football power was one thing, but doing it again within three days was a tall task, and in Porto, it proved a bridge too far to cross.

Fernandes stars as Portugal ease North Macedonia out

When North Macedonia stepped onto the Porto pitch, they had high hopes, with 90 minutes separating them from a first-ever World Cup appearance. Perhaps, the odds are skewed heavily against the minnows. They had just done the unthinkable by knocking out European champions and four-time World Cup winners in Italy. The world asked them to go one more step - to beat former European champions Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo may not be at his imperial best, but the Portuguese icon chipped in his quota. It was not to be Ronaldo’s night. The night belonged to another - it belonged to Bruno Fernandes.

Teammates at Manchester United, it was he who stepped up to put the giant killers to the sword at the Estadio do Dragao.

Goals, assists, pseudo-assists, Ronaldo has it all. It was his clever pass that set Fernandes up for the first goal. The first half goal put Portugal in a position of comfort, and they could hold on and keep North Macedonia at bay.

Fernandes made the victory comfortable as he latched on to an excellent cross into the box for his second of the night.

The win makes it Portugal's sixth qualification out of six since the turn of the century. It will also be Ronaldo’s fifth appearance at the World Cup.

Poland joins Portugal in picking ticket to Qatar

While Portugal were doing business against North Macedonia, the 67th ranked nation, Poland had a tougher tie against Sweden. In front of fans, Poland put up a show as they sealed their passage to Qatar. A 2-0 win guaranteed the Polish flag would fly in Qatar.

The Poles had to wait till the second half for a breakthrough when Robert Lewandowski put his penalty beyond the reach of the Swedish goalkeeper. Piotr Zielinski put the tie to bed with a superb second goal for the hosts.

While the attackers were doing the business of scoring, Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was in inspired form as he made key saves to deny Swedish playmaker Emil Forsberg.

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