Bruno Fernandes scored two goals to send Portugal to the 2022 World Cup with a 2-0 victory over North Macedonia in Porto.
North Macedonia went into the play-off final looking for another major upset, after defeating Italy 1-0 in the semi-finals by winning the interval.
Portugal had other ideas though and Fernandes hit both halves to secure his country’s place in Qatar. They have competed in the World Cup since 1998 and will be the team to lead in Friday’s draw.
Cristiano Ronaldo said in his speech that this was “the game of our lives”, and that perhaps the pressure was felt when Portugal slowly started the game.
North Macedonia passed the ball with confidence, although they were truly shocked by 15 minutes of play. Otavio played some excellent football for Ronaldo, only had goalkeepers hit him but he pulled his effort away from the goal post.
Diogo Jota should have given the home side the lead soon after when he threw his head down and over the bar, though the goal came to Portugal as they punished the offense mercilessly.
Stefan Ristokvski played a bad world towards Fernandes, played a one-two game with Ronaldo, and then shot in the lower corner to bring back the party spirit in the stands.
Jota could have gone ahead twice before the break, sending his effort to the side teams as he lost balance, with Portugal finishing well on top.
North Macedonia saw a lot of football in the second half as the home team sat back, holding on to what they had.
The space is becoming more and more open to them even though the guests are piling up the men in front, and making full use of them in the middle of the second period.
A brilliant ball from Pepe cleared Portugal, Jota cut a fine ball over Fernandes and his half-volley Stole Dimitrievski fared well as he scored for the second time tonight to take full control of his team.
Darko Velkovski has produced an astonishing challenge to deny Ronaldo looks set to enter the pipeline after Fernandes put a square on his Manchester United teammate.
There would be no goal for Ronaldo, or any of the recent North Macedonian heroes in the event, as Portugal have clearly seen the last minute to book a place in Qatar at the end of the year. They certainly have the talent to make it a successful journey.