Cristiano Ronaldo remains on track to compete at what would be his fifth World Cup after Portugal reached the UEFA World Cup playoff finals with a 3-1 win over Turkey.
North Macedonia’s shock victory over European champions Italy means that Ronaldo and Portugal have an excellent chance to make it through in a fixture that will take place in the friendly confines of Porto.
Goals from Otavio and Diogo Jota put Portugal ahead against Turkey, who then got a goal back through Burak Yilmaz, with the striker later missing a penalty that could have leveled the match at 2-2. Portugal added a third goal as Matheus Nunes scored late on.
Portugal will be aware that North Macedonia won’t be pushovers but at the same time they will be confident of reaching Qatar.
When could Ronaldo qualify for World Cup?
The showdown against North Macedonia will take place on Tuesday, March 29, in what sets up to be a World Cup celebration unless North Macedonia can pull off another upset.
- Date: Tuesday, March 29
- Time: 2:35 p.m. ET
- USA TV channels: ESPN2, TUDN
- USA streaming: fuboTV, ESPN+
- Canada TV streaming: Univision Canada, UEFA.tv
The fact that Portugal are at home against the No. 67-ranked team in the world adds to their chances of succeeding, and everything has fallen kindly for Fernando Santos’s side, especially when it is taken into consideration that they could have been playing No. 6-ranked Italy instead.
North Macedonia have players at major European clubs, such as Elif Elmas (Napoli) and Darko Churlinov (Schalke), but Portugal will certainly be pleased that they avoided the European champions and will feel that they have a good chance of making it through.
Has Portugal played North Macedonia before?
Portugal and North Macedonia have faced each other twice previously, both when the latter nation was known as FYR Macedonia.
In April 2003 Portugal beat Macedonia 1-0 in a friendly in Lausanne, Switzerland, with Luis Figo scoring. Ronaldo hadn’t made his senior international debut by this point.
The sides met again in May 2012 and the game ended goalless, with Ronaldo playing 73 minutes.
How did Portugal, North Macedonia end up here?
UEFA World Cup qualifying this cycle has a wrinkle which sees these two teams match up. After the previous group stage, where 10 World Cup places were handed out to the 10 group winners, the 10 group runners-up fell into a playoff knockout bracket alongside two Nations League qualifiers.
Those 12 teams battle for the final three World Cup places afforded to the European confederation, with three mini four-team brackets drawn together.
Portugal defeated Turkey in its semifinal, while North Macedonia upset Italy to reach the final. These teams now do battle for just one World Cup place.
One other final features Wales and Sweden, while the third final is not yet set, as the unrest in Ukraine has caused scheduling issues. Russia was eliminated by UEFA for its military aggression, advancing Poland to the final, while Ukraine requested a postponement of its semifinal against Scotland, which was granted.
Portugal show muscle vs. Turkey
Portugal showed excellent spirit to get the better of Turkey and they managed to progress despite being without some of their key players, such as Pepe (who has COVID) and Joao Cancelo.
Santos will be pleased with the resilience that his players demonstrated and if they have the same determination against North Macedonia then they have a good chance of securing their place in Qatar.
Can Portugal, Ronaldo win the World Cup?
Sky Bet have Portugal at odds of 14/1 to win the World Cup, making them currently eighth favorites behind Brazil, France, England, Spain, Germany, Argentina and Belgium.
Following Italy’s elimination, Portugal are in line to be in Pot One in the World Cup finals draw should they make it through and maintain their standing in the FIFA World Rankings when the new list comes out on March 31.
The top seven-ranked teams, plus Qatar will be the eight seeds at the FIFA World Cup and will be placed in Pot 1 for the draw that takes place on April 1.