Ronaldo, Portgual among teams securing World Cup bids
New Delhi: Cristiano Ronaldo will get another shot at lifting the World Cup.
Portugal beat North Macedonia 2-0 in a European playoff on Tuesday, securing a fifth World Cup appearance for the leading men’s international scorer. It was one of seven spots in soccer’s premier tournament decided on the day.
Thirty-two teams, including the hosts, will play in Qatar starting Nov. 21. As of Tuesday, 27 teams had qualified with two additional spots to be determined on Wednesday. Two intercontinental playoffs will be held in June along with two games to determine the final European berth.
Portugal’s win finalized the eight seeds for Friday’s draw: Qatar, Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Portugal and Spain.
Pot two will include Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Uruguay, and if the teams qualify Wednesday, Mexico and the United States.
All eyes were on North Macedonia, vying for its first World Cup berth after surprisingly eliminated Italy with a 1-0 victory last week. But the small country that gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 fell short. Portugal made its eighth World Cup and sixth in a row.
“Goal achieved, we are at the Qatar World Cup, we are in our rightful place! Thank you to all the Portuguese for the tireless support! Portugal strong!” Ronaldo posted to social media in Portuguese.
The World Cup trophy is the one prize that has eluded Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner. While the 37-year old is a lock for his team’s roster in Qatar, fellow international star Mohamed Salah will miss out after Egypt fell to Senegal on Tuesday.
Senegal advanced on a penalty shootout for one of Africa’s five berths after fans shone lasers in Salah’s face while he stepped up to take Egypt’s first penalty kick. He blasted his attempt over the crossbar while he had green-colored lasers pointed at his face and body.
Salah’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mané struck the winning penalty after the teams drew 1-1 on aggregate, sending Senegal to its third World Cup. Mané also had the shootout winner against Egypt in the African Cup of Nations final on Feb. 6.
Ghana qualified after a 1-1 draw with Nigeria behind Thomas Partey’s 10th-minute goal to advance on away goals. The Black Stars, who eliminated the U.S. in 2006 and ’10, will be making their fourth World Cup appearance.
Algeria won its first leg, vying to qualify after missing out on the 2018 World Cup, but Cameroon came back with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday on Karl Toko Ekambi’s goal in the fourth minute of the second extra time period to advance on away goals. Morocco downed the Democratic Republic of the Congo 4-1 to secure its spot 5-2 on aggregate. Tunisia played to a scoreless draw with Mali and qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory.
Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty in the 50th minute and Poland secured its second straight World Cup berth with a 2-1 victory over Sweden in another European playoff. It was Lewandowski’s 75th international goal in 129 appearances.
Canada has already clinched a spot in North and Central America and the Caribbean, its first World Cup appearance in 36 years. The United States and Mexico have all but secured berths with the final round of matches set for Wednesday. The U.S. men, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup, visit Costa Rica, while Mexico will host El Salvador.
Costa Rica is currently in fourth place with a chance to go to an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Wednesday’s Oceania match between New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
The European teams that have qualified are Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Poland and Portugal.
Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay have qualified in South America. Peru defeated Paraguay 2-0 on Tuesday night for fifth place, and will compete for a berth against the winner of Asia’s fifth-place playoff between Australia and the United Arab Emirates on June 7.
The Asian region teams that qualified are Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Ukraine originally scheduled was to play Scotland in a European playoff, but the match was postponed until June because of Russia’s invasion. The winner plays at Wales for Europe’s final spot.