PORTO, Portugal (AP) — There will be another World Cup for Cristiano Ronaldo.
The top scorer in men’s national team football will be eligible for his fifth World Cup in Qatar after Portugal beat North Macedonia 2-0 in the European playoffs on Tuesday.
“Goal achieved,” Cristiano wrote on Instagram. “We managed to advance to the World Cup in Qatar. We are where we deserve to be.”
Bruno Fernandes opened the account for the hosts after a fine pass from Cristiano in the first half and added the second in the second half to ensure the Portuguese qualified for their sixth World Cup in a row.
North Macedonia could not pull another claw in the throes of eliminating a heavyweight, as it did against European champions Italy last Thursday in Palermo.
“This has been a special victory,” said Fernandes. “We achieved the goal, which is what mattered. Portugal has had better games, but this one will remain in the memory because it put us in a World Cup”.
The Macedonians will have to wait to make their World Cup debut. They came from participating in a major tournament for the first time when they played the European Championship last year.
After drawing the playoffs, Portugal will be among the top seeds in Friday’s draw for the World Cup that starts in November.
At 37 years old, Cristiano will take part in his tenth major tournament in a row, a streak that began with Euro 2004. He has played four World Cups and five European Championships, with a continental title in 2016.
Author of 115 goals for the national teams, Cristiano can boast of being the only one in history to have scored at least once in nine consecutive major tournaments.
Cristiano and the rest of the squad gathered around a Portuguese flag in the center circle as fans sang the national anthem at the Estádio do Dragão in Porto.
“We are happy because the Portuguese people will be able to see their team in another World Cup,” said coach Fernando Santos. “The players ratified their craft from the beginning and defeated a very difficult opponent.”
Portugal also had to dodge playoffs to qualify for the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. They knocked out Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2010 and Sweden in 2014.
They had to play this play-off after conceding a late goal against Serbia in the last date of their group last year.
In the first play-off game last week, Portugal beat Turkey 3-1 in Porto, with the visitors wasting an 85th-minute penalty that would have overturned a two-goal first-half deficit.
“It would have been unfair for Portugal to be out of the World Cup,” veteran defender Pepe said. “We showed our personality on the pitch to give our fans this victory.”