Cristiano Ronaldo insisted Portugal had taken their “rightful” place at the World Cup after beating North Macedonia 2-0 to book their place at Qatar 2022.
A North Macedonia upset would not have been a surprise after their wins over Germany and Italy, but Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes netted twice to secure Portugal’s spot.
Ronaldo assisted the first for Fernandes to slot away in the bottom left corner, the second a volley on the penalty spot following Diogo Jota’s lofted pass to the No 11.
“Goal achieved, we are in the Qatar World Cup, we are in our rightful place,” Ronaldo posted on Instagram.
“Thanks to all Portuguese for their tireless support! Come on Portugal!”
It may have taken longer than some of their European rivals, but Portugal will sit at the top table going into Friday’s World Cup draw – the Euro 2016 winners are set to be among the eight top seeds.
How to watch World Cup draw in UK
- Date: Friday 1 April
- Time: 5pm BST
- TV: BBC One from 4.45pm
- Stream: BBC iPlayer and BBC Sport website and app
“We got there in the end with a little bit more difficulty than we should of. We are over the moon to be in Qatar,” said former Southampton defender Jose Fonte.
The 38-year-old, in reply to being asked about Ronaldo’s possible fifth and final World Cup appearance, added: “He is the one that decides the future. I think he physically feels good, he feels great.
“I think if he has the chance to win it and if he has the chance to keep performing at the highest stages he will keep playing… I assume he will be in Qatar and not only in Qatar, in the next Euros at least.”
Who could England play?
Fifa will use rankings published on 31 March, but as it stands, England are set to join hosts Qatar in Pot 1 along with Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, France, Spain and Portugal.
That means England avoid some big-hitters, but Pot 2 will have nations to avoid, including Germany and the Netherlands.
Pot 2 is set to include: Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Uruguay, USA, Mexico*.
Japan are guaranteed to be in Pot 3 and Serbia are likely to join them. They will be pitted with Afcon winners Senegal, who beat Egypt on penalties after two legs, while Fifa are placing the final UEFA play-off winner in Pot 4 – with Wales playing Scotland or Ukraine in that match.
*Mexico and USA all but qualified but yet to be officially confirmed
Poland also qualified for Qatar after beating Sweden 2-0, with Robert Lewandowski’s penalty calmly slotted bottom-right before Piotr Zielinski coolly finished a one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
Elsewhere, Ghana knocked out rivals Nigeria on away goals to reach the World Cup for the first time since 2014.
Also in Africa, Senegal beat Egypt 3-1 on penalties again to qualify for their first consecutive World Cup appearance.
The Africa Cup of Nations final rematch ended in debate as the Egyptian players were targeted by lasers – a possibility behind Mo Salah’s rare penalty miss.
“Well obviously, I feel sorry for Mo and for Egypt, but football is sometimes like this,” Salah’s Liverpool teammate Virgil van Dijk said after the Netherlands friendly against Germany.
“I am sure he will turn the disappointment into success for the rest of the season. We still have everything to play for so there is a lot of things still to achieve for him. As for Sadio, I wish him all the best and if he is in our group, he is going to need that good luck!”
Which teams have qualified so far for Qatar 2022?
- South Korea
- Saudi Arabia
North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF)
Who else can still qualify?
- Scotland, Ukraine or Wales
- Australia or United Arab Emirates vs Peru)
- Most likely Costa Rica vs New Zealand