Portugal, Poland qualify for World Cup
Sports Desk, Mar 29 (EFE).- Portugal are headed to the World Cup for the sixth consecutive time after beating scrappy North Macedonia 2-0 Tuesday in the Path C playoff final, while Poland grabbed the Path B berth with a 2-0 triumph over Sweden.
Scotland and Ukraine will face each other in June in the Path A final, postponed due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Qatar 2022 is likely to be the last chance at World Cup glory for Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo, 37, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner who has won titles in the Premier League, LaLiga and Serie A, hoisted the Champions League trophy multiple times, and led the national side to victory in the Euro Cup and Nations League.
Fresh off eliminating quadruple World Cup champions Italy in last week’s semifinal, North Macedonia traveled to Porto with hopes of upending another favorite, but the hosts were too much for the squad from the Balkans.
A brace from Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes, who scored in each half, proved to be more than sufficient against a team with little in the way of attacking talent.
The Poles, recipients of a semifinal bye thanks to Russia’s expulsion from FIFA, welcomed Sweden – stretched to extra-time by the Czechs in their semifinal – for what was touted as a clash of the titans between Robert Lewandowski and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Lewandowski did his part, converting a penalty to put Poland up 1-0 early in the second half, but the hosts were leading 2-0 on Piotr Zielinski’s goal in the 72nd minute by the time Ibra came on with 10 minutes and the 40-year-old striker was not a factor.
Besides securing their second straight trip to the World Cup, the Poles got some revenge for their losses to Sweden in the 2000 and 2004 European Championships. EFE