Two wonderful Bruno Fernandes strikes helped Portugal clinch a win against North Macedonia and a 2022 FIFA World Cup spot.
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Bruno Fernandes put in an impressive display, scoring in each half in Portugal's play-off against North Macedonia to seal his side's place at the FIFA World Cup finals in Qatar.
32' Bruno Fernandes breaks the deadlock
65' Manchester United man surges through for his second
Match in brief: Fernandes doubles up
Portugal looked as if they might be set for a long evening, with both skipper Cristiano Ronaldo and Diogo Jota going close in the first 30 minutes.
Fernandes then intercepted a stray pass just after the half-hour mark before combining well with the Portugal captain and drilling a low strike past Stole Dimitrievski.
North Macedonia rarely troubled Diogo Costa in the Portuguese goal in the first period but started brightly after the interval.
However, Fernandes put paid to any thoughts of another big scalp for the visitors after a swift counterattack set Diogo Jota down the left. His pinpoint delivery sat up nicely for the goalscorer to double his tally, hitting a neat first-time finish at speed.
Carlos Machado, Portugal reporter
Portugal qualify for Qatar with a hard-fought win against a resilient North Macedonia side. Both goals came via counterattacks, which shows that the hosts had some difficulty in creating opportunities. That said, Fernando Santos's outfit had the better chances and more of the ball, but credit to the visitors who made life hard for their opponents.
Igor Panevski, North Macedonia reporter
North Macedonia did not manage to pull off another shock against a European giant. Tonight Portugal were the better side and deserve their spot at the World Cup. You sensed it was a step too far for North Macedonia to record what would have been the biggest result in their history so soon after that amazing semi-final win against Italy.
Bruno Fernandes, Portugal goalscorer: "This game will stay in the memory because we made it to the World Cup. It was a very important match, the fans were impeccable. The atmosphere was spectacular today – people realised what we needed."
Fernando Santos, Portugal coach: "I have already won two competitions and I dream a lot of winning a third. I have to congratulate the players for their fantastic attitude. In the first ten minutes we couldn't get it right. I said that this North Macedonia side knew how to play. However, there was a spirit of helping each other out and great support from the fans."
Blagoja Milevski, North Macedonia coach: "I am satisfied with my players. We should be proud of the guys for what they've done from September until today. They bring great potential and talent, and are well on their way to getting closer to the best in Europe."
Stefan Ristovski, North Macedonia defender: "We leave with our heads held high. We went on a journey that no-one would have believed and we can take great pride from that. We caused a big shock that stunned world football, but we have to keep going and believe that it's possible to be in more games like this."
- Portugal have made it to a sixth successive FIFA World Cup.
- Portugal have qualified for a World Cup via the play-offs for a third time – after 2010 and 2014.
- Bruno Fernandes scored twice in a senior international for only the second time – after a 4-0 friendly success against Israel in June 2021.
- Fernandes managed as many goals as in his entire competitive Portugal career before this evening.
- Fernandes' only competitive Portugal goals prior to tonight both came in fixtures against Luxembourg.
- Cristiano Ronaldo is on to 186 international appearances, six more than any other European player.
Europe's World Cup qualifiers
Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland.
Portugal: Diogo Costa; João Cancelo, Danilo, Pepe, Nuno Mendes; Bruno Fernandes (Matheus Nunes 87), João Moutinho (Vitinha 90+1), Otávio (William Carvalho 76); Ronaldo, Diogo Jota (Rafael Leão 76), Bernardo Silva (João Félix 87).
North Macedonia: Dimitrievski; S Ristovski, Velkovski, Musliu, Alioski; Ademi, Bardi; Kostadinov (Ashkovski 75), Elmas (Nikolov 87), Trajkovski (Churlinov 59); M Ristovski (Miovski 46).