Portugal survive scare to end Turkish World Cup hopes


Fernando Santos’ side pulled through a second-half fightback from Turkey to earn a 3-1 victory in Porto and seal a Play-Off final with North Macedonia on Tuesday.

Speculation circled in the build-up to the game as to whether coach Fernando Santos would leave out Cristiano Ronaldo out of the starting XI for this huge fixture. However, the country’s record goalscorer eventualy got the nod in attack over Joao Felix.

The hosts started with intent and almost went in front inside the first minute, with Zeki Celik doing just enough to thwart Ronaldo from Diogo Dalot’s cross. It was a sign of things to come on a frustrating evening for the former Ballon D’or winner on a personal level, as he failed to add to his tally of 115 international goals.

Turkey were unable to keep hold of the ball in the opening exchanges and were masters of their own downfall, continually inviting Portuguese pressure. Diogo Jota should have capitalised and opened the scoring in the 11th minute but the Liverpool forward spurned a glorious opportunity from Bruno Fernandes’ free kick.

That being said, the missed opportunity would prove to be only a temporary reprieve for Stefan Kuntz’s Turkish side however as Otavio scored on his home turf to put Portugal ahead. The Porto forward reacted quickly after Bernardo Silva’s shot hit the post to turn in from close range and tapped home. Although the goal was no less than Portugal deserved, it did seem to shake Turkey into life.

The visitors awoke from their slumber and began to play football in the opposition half for the first time in the game. Cengiz Under tested Diogo Costa in the Portuguese goal while Berkan Kutlu also came close to equalising, but he saw his back-post header go narrowly wide.

Portugal weathered that particular storm and doubled their lead shortly before half-time. Otavio was the provider on this occassion with his cross headed powerfully home by Jota from 10 yards out.

Santos will have been delighted with the first-half display, and more of the same ensued as his side were in complete control in the early stages of the second half. Jota could have put the game beyond doubt but shot over after Ugurcan Cakir went wandering from the Turkish goal.

At the time this felt like a mere blot on the copybook but out of nowhere, Turkey grabbed themselves a lifeline. Burak Yilmaz played a nice give and go with Under and the Lille man slotted past Costa to give his side some renewed hope. Following this, there was now a nervousness in the crowd that was not there previously and those nerves shot up even further when Jose Fonte kicked Enes Unal in the box. VAR intervened and Turkey had a penalty to claim an unlikely leveller. Yilmaz took responsibility to try and force extra-time but the veteran striker side-footed his penalty high and wide to spare the blushes of the Portuguese players.

Try as they might, Turkey were unable to fashion another late chance and Portugal sealed the win in the 94th minute with substitute Matheus Nunes racing clear to finish off a counter-attack to end the Turkish resistance. Turkey’s 20-year wait for a World Cup appearance goes on but the focus is on the next game for Portugal.

All eyes were on a potential decider with Italy in the final but the European Champions suffered a shock defeat at home to North Macedonia that leaves Santos’ men firm favourites to progress to Qatar in December.

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