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PIX: Portugal, Poland, Senegal punch ticket to Qatar World Cup

March 30, 2022 09:58 IST
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Images and a round-up of all the World Cup qualifiers played across continents on Tuesday.

Portugal's Bruno Fernandes (2nd from right) celebrates with teammates after scores their second goal against North Macedonia during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal.

IMAGE: Portugal's Bruno Fernandes (2nd from right) celebrates with teammates after scores their second goal against North Macedonia during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifier knockout round play-off match at Estadio do Dragao in Porto, Portugal. Photograph: Octavio Passos/Getty Images

Portugal's Bruno Fernandes scored a clinical double as they beat stubborn visitors North Macedonia 2-0 to qualify for the World Cup finals in Qatar after a tense European playoff tie on Tuesday.

 

Roared on by 50,000 fans at a sold-out Dragao Stadium in Porto, Portugal dominated the game from the start but struggled to break down the strong North Macedonian defence, managing only three shots on target despite having almost 70% possession.

Fernandes opened the scoring 30 minutes into the first half after intercepting a pass by his best friend, North Macedonia captain Stefan Ristovski, working a great one-two with Cristiano Ronaldo before whipping his shot past the goalkeeper.

The 27-year-old attacking midfielder sealed Portugal's win in the 65th minute, striking home a volley from a Diogo Jota cross.

Fernando Santos's team then ran down the clock, celebrating at the final whistle with their joyful fans who remained in the stands for more than 15 minutes after the game, singing as the players completed a victory lap holding a huge Portugal flag.

"I don't care about individual accomplishments but this display will be one to remember because it helped my country to reach a World Cup," Fernandes told reporters.

Portugal, who won the 2016 European Championship in France and the 2019 UEFA Nations League at home, qualified for a sixth straight World Cup finals and have now not missed a major international competition in the last 20 years.

"I have already won two competitions and I hope I can win the third one in Qatar," coach Santos told a news conference.

"There was a spirit of mutual help and great support from the public. It was a deserved and fair win and qualification. I don't remember any great goalscoring situations for their team."

They were pushed into the playoffs after finishing second in Group A, having lost their final game at home to Serbia 2-1 last November.

That had left them needing to win two consecutive elimination games to qualify, with last week's win over Turkey, where they survived late drama, setting up a decider against North Macedonia, who had stunned Italy in their opening match.

It was a nervous occasion in Porto on Tuesday but Portugal dominated and avoided any surprises from the underdogs, who did not have a shot on target.

Poland beat Sweden 2-0 to secure place in World Cup finals

Sweden's Victor Lindelof challenges Poland's Robert Lewandowski during their World Cup Qualifiers, Path B playoff final at Silesian Stadium, Chorzow, Poland

IMAGE: Sweden's Victor Lindelof challenges Poland's Robert Lewandowski during their World Cup Qualifiers, Path B playoff final at Silesian Stadium, Chorzow, Poland. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

Poland's Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski fired second-half goals to book a place at the World Cup finals in Qatar with a 2-0 win over Sweden in an electrifying playoff tie on Tuesday.

The Poles battled to contain a Sweden side bristling with youthful attacking vigour, but in the end experience told as Lewandowski and his team mates capitalised on mistakes.

After a shaky opening, the Swedes quickly grew into the game and winger Emil Forsberg should have given them the lead but Wojciech Szczesny pulled off the first of a string of fine saves to turn the ball behind for a corner in the 19th minute.

The home side also struggled as Sweden winger Dejan Kulusevski twice went close before the playoff final turned on a clumsy mistake by Jesper Karlstroem.

The Swedish midfielder mistimed a challenge in the box early in the second half and ended up bundling Poland substitute Grzegorz Krychowiak to the ground, with Italian referee Daniele Orsato immediately pointing to the spot.

Up stepped Poland captain Lewandowski to send Robin Olsen the wrong way as he confidently struck his low spot kick into the net for his 75th international goal.

The Swedes threw caution to the wind and poured forward, with Szczesny getting down smartly to deny Forsberg again and Victor Lindelof sending the resulting corner just wide with a glancing header.

Just as the visitors looked to be on the verge of scoring, a mix-up between Kristoffer Olsson and Marcus Danielson allowed Zielinski to score as he curled the ball into the net at the near post in the 73rd minute.

The Swedes brought their record scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic off the bench for the final 10 minutes but Szczesny and the Polish defence held firm in front of a capacity crowd to secure their country's spot at the World Cup.

Defender Kamil Glik was delighted to come out on top in the winner-take-all playoff clash.

"It was new for all of us -- for me, for Robert (Lewandowski), who had played many matches but he hadn't played one like this, none of us had. It was a very tough match from this point of view," Glik, who played with a muscle injury, told Polish TV.

"I wasn't interested in what would happen tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, next week, next year. All that mattered was the here and now. We won and I'm very happy," he added.

Peru seal World Cup playoff berth with 2-0 win over Paraguay

Peru's Gianluca Lapadula celebrates with teammates on scoring their first goal against Paraguay during the World Cup, South American qualifiers at Estadio Nacional, Lima, Peru

IMAGE: Peru's Gianluca Lapadula celebrates with teammates on scoring their first goal against Paraguay during the World Cup, South American qualifiers at Estadio Nacional, Lima, Peru. Photograph: Sebastian Castaneda/Reuters

Peru sealed a World Cup playoff spot on Tuesday after a 2-0 win over Paraguay secured fifth place in the South American qualifying group.

Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador and Uruguay had already secured South America’s four automatic spots.

Peru will meet either the United Arab Emirates or Australia, who play the Asian confederation playoff in Doha on June 7, for a place in Qatar. The inter-confederation playoff will take place in Doha on June 13 or 14.

"Tonight's game was a joy for the whole country but there is still one more step to take," midfielder Christian Cueva said. "As from tomorrow we'll be focused on the playoff."

Peru also had to go through a playoff to reach the last World Cup in Russia, defeating New Zealand over two legs to qualify for their first finals since Spain in 1982.

On Tuesday, the Andean side started the night with 21 points, one more than Colombia and two ahead of Chile, knowing that a win over Paraguay in the final round of qualifying would be enough to wrap up the playoff spot.

They went ahead with just four minutes gone, Gianluca Lapadula running on to a defence-splitting pass from Cueva to poke the ball in off the post.

Three minutes before halftime it was 2-0, Cueva the architect again. His work outside a packed penalty box led to a cross finished off by Yoshimar Yotun.

The home side controlled the second half without making many more chances and were content to see the game out and send the capacity crowd at the National stadium into raptures at the final whistle.

Ricardo Gareca's team did not look like they would be in contention for Qatar early on in the group, only getting their first win in their sixth game.

But three wins in a row against Bolivia, Venezuela and Colombia between November 2021 and January this year pulled them right back into the running.

“We’re very happy, we fought so hard,” said defender Renato Tapia. “We were in a really tight situation but we were able to pull ourselves out of it. Paraguay were a tough rival but we won."

In the night's other games, Brazil beat Bolivia 4-0 in La Paz thanks to goals from Lucas Paqueta, Bruno Guimaraes -- his first for the national side - and a double for Richarlison.

The win took Brazil's points total to 45, a record in the South American qualifying section. Tite's men are unbeaten in their 17 group games so far, and they still have one match to play against Argentina.

Argentina drew 1-1 at Ecuador after Julian Alvarez's early goal was cancelled out in stoppage time by the home side's Enner Valencia, who converted the rebound after his penalty was saved.

That result extended Argentina's unbeaten run in all matches under Lionel Scaloni to a record-equalling 31. Alfio Basile led Argentina to 31 matches undefeated between 1991 and 1993.

Colombia beat Venezuela 1-0 thanks to a James Rodriguez penalty, while Luis Suarez, with a bicycle kick, and Federico Valverde gave Uruguay a 2-0 win over Chile in Santiago.

Tunisia through to World Cup after 0-0 home draw with Mali

Tunisia's Seifeddine Jaziri and teammates celebrate after beating Mali in the African qualifiers to make the World Cup at Stade Olympique De Rades, Rades, Tunisia

IMAGE: Tunisia's Seifeddine Jaziri and teammates celebrate after beating Mali in the African qualifiers to make the World Cup at Stade Olympique De Rades, Rades, Tunisia. Photograph: Zoubeir Souissi/Reuters

Tunisia qualified for a sixth World Cup finals appearance after a 0-0 draw at home to Mali ensured their place at the tournament in Qatar with a 1-0 aggregate triumph.

Mali, who have never previously qualified, were much more enterprising but failed to break down a typically tight Tunisia defence, as the hosts held onto their advantage from last Friday’s first leg in Bamako.

The north Africans benefitted from a horror own goal in Mali where defender Moussa Sissako contrived to turn the ball into his own net in the first half of the first leg and then get himself sent off only four minutes later.

With a 1-0 lead, Tunisia played it safe and the return match had little of the drama of the first clash, although there was some needle between the two teams given what was at stake.

Tunisia will play at a second successive World Cup but will be among the weaker African sides, having benefitted from a fortuitous pairing in the playoffs as they avoided some of the other heavyweights.

But they again proved capable of playing on the big occasion, crowding the midfield and giving almost nothing away at the back.

It was only the second match in charge for Tunisia’s new coach Jalel Kadri, appointed after the Cup of Nations finals where Tunisia fired Mondher Kebaier despite reaching the quarter-finals.

Kadri collapsed in tears at the final whistle as Tunisia celebrated with the capacity crowd at the Rades Stadium.

Mali had persuaded Everton’s Abdoulaye Doucoure to switch allegiance from France and play for them in the playoffs but he was taken off at halftime of the first leg and then left out of Tuesday’s starting lineup, coming on for the last 17 minutes.

Mane fires winning penalty to propel Senegal to World Cup finals

Sadio Mane fired home the winning spot kick as Senegal beat Egypt 3-1 on penalties at the end of a tempestuous World Cup playoff second leg in Dakar on Tuesday to win a place at the finals in Qatar later this year.

Boulaye Dia scored in the fourth minute as Senegal won the second leg 1-0 for a 1-1 aggregate draw after extra time at the new Diamniadio Olympic Stadium, which was packed with a capacity 50,000 crowd hours before kickoff.

The nerve-filled shootout started with four misses, including from both captains - Kalidou Koulibaly and then Mohamed Salah - but Mane won the shootout, reprising his heroics from last month's Africa Cup of Nations final.

Egypt had netted a fourth-minute goal last Friday in the first leg in Cairo but that advantage was quickly eroded in the second leg.

Idrissa Gana Gueye's free kick was cleared in the wrong direction by Egypt defender Ahmed Fattouh, straight into the path of Dia, who needed two attempts to bundle it over from close range.

Senegal dominated the exchanges although the game was often interrupted by niggly fouls, gamesmanship and occasional pushing and shoving between the anxious players.

It did not help that both coaches -- Aliou Cisse for Senegal and Carlos Queiroz for Egypt -- spent much of the match barking at the officials from the touchline.

Senegal could have settled the tie in their favour inside the 90 minutes as Ismaila Sarr spurned a golden chance in the 82nd.

He was put free on goal by Mane’s defence-splitting pass but with goalkeeper Mohamed El Shennawy rushing out to close the angle, Sarr contrived to put the ball wide of the target.

Egypt’s best chance of the match fell to substitute Ahmed Zizo, who was served up an opportunity by Mohamed Salah’s cross but he put his header narrowly wide.

In extra time, Senegal could also have avoided the shootout but Pape Abou Cisse had two efforts well stopped by El Shennawy and Pape Gueye shot wide 13 minutes from the end of extra time.

In the shootout, the first four penalties were wasted before Sarr put Senegal ahead and Bamba Dieng made it 2-1 before Edouard Mendy saved from Mostafa Mohamed.

That gave Mane the opportunity to be a hero all over again with Senegal’s fifth kick, which he blasted straight down the middle to book their World Cup ticket.

"I was not worried about how they’ll manage the game mentally. We have guys who have won the Champions League," said winning coach Cisse.

Senegal edged Egypt on post-match penalties last month to win the Cup of Nations final in Cameroon. That match ended goalless with Senegal winning 4-2 on spotkicks with Mane converting the decisive penalty.

Senegal will now compete at a third World Cup after the reaching the quarter-finals in 2002 and competing in Russia four years ago.

Morocco brush aside DR Congo to book World Cup berth

Morocco qualified for this year's World Cup in Qatar after Azzedine Ounahi netted a double as they overcame first-half injuries to beat the Democratic Republic of Congo 4-1 in the second leg of their playoff on Tuesday.

Morocco advanced 5-2 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw in Kinshasa in Friday’s first leg and will compete at the finals for a sixth time.

Tarik Tissuoadali and Achraf Hakimi scored the other goals for Morocco, who were 2-0 up at halftime despite losing defender Jawad El Yamiq after six minutes to a muscle injury and having to take off goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, suffering from concussion after twice being hit on the head in aerial duels, in the 43rd.

Substitute Ben Malongo netted a consolation for the Congolese with a shot on the turn from the edge of the penalty box that was the pick of the night’s efforts.

Ounahi, who won his first cap for Morocco in January after being named as a surprise selection for January’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament, hammered home a half-volley from outside the area, snapping up a loose ball to put Morocco into the lead in the 21st minute.

Tissadouli, who had scored in the first leg on Friday, added the second in the 12 minutes of stoppage time at the end of the first half that was caused by lengthy injury delays. He ran onto a botched clearance to fire home with precision.

Ounahi was given far too much time in the Congolese area to steady himself and pick his corner for the third goal in the 54th minute, all but ending any contest and allowing the home crowd to party through the second half.

The gulf between the two teams was made even more evident when Ounahi’s shot in the 69th minute was parried by goalkeeper Joel Kiassumbua but Hakimi followed up to net from a tight angle.

Malongo’s 77th-minute goal gave the Congolese some cheer but they were thoroughly outplayed as their bid to qualify for the first time since 1974, when the country was still known as Zaire, ended in bitter disappointment.

Toko Ekambi scores sensational winner to send Cameroon to World Cup

Karl Toko Ekambi scored a 124th-minute winner as Cameroon sensationally booked their place at the World Cup in Qatar with a 2-1 victory over hosts Algeria in their playoff tie at the Stade Mustapha Tchaker on Tuesday.

Algeria looked to have booked their place when Ahmed Touba netted with three minutes remaining at the end of extra-time, but as Cameroon pushed everyone forward for the final play of the game, Toko Ekambi latched onto a headed pass from Michael Ngadeu-Ngadjui to net a most unlikely winner.

The victory on the away goals rule, following a 2-2 aggregate draw, seals an eighth World Cup finals appearance for the Indomitable Lions and follows a 1-0 win for Algeria in the first leg on Friday that left them heavy favourites to advance.

It seals a disastrous few months for the north African side who were dumped out of the Africa Cup of Nations finals, ironically played in Cameroon, in the first round in January as they gave up the title they won in 2019.

But the night was Cameroon’s to celebrate after Eric Choupo-Moting had given them the lead in the first half, a goal which took the tie to extra time.

His strike came via a mistake from Algeria goalkeeper Rais M'Bolhi, who dropped the ball under pressure from his own team mate at a corner and Choupo-Moting reacted quickest to turn the loose ball into the net.

It was a goal that rocked the hosts, who were unable to find their usual fluency and snatched at the chances that came their way.

Islam Slimani laid the ball on a plate for Youcef Belaili, who just had Cameroon goalkeeper Andre Onana to beat, but fired wide.

Houcine Benayada then forced a good stop from Onana and Slimani netted from the rebound, but the latter was correctly ruled offside.

Riyad Mahrez saw his shot saved, and from the resultant corner Abdelkader Bedrane headed over as the chances kept on coming for the home side.

Then came a moment of some controversy. Slimani thought he had headed Algeria into an extra-time lead, but the goal was ruled out for handball after a review by the Video Assistant Referee.

Touba looked to have won the tie for the home side though with his free header at the back post from a corner, but the last word fell to Toko Ekambi as Cameroon grabbed a memorable victory.

Abdalla on target as UAE set up playoff with Australia

The United Arab Emirates handed South Korea a surprise 1-0 defeat in Dubai on Tuesday to set up a playoff clash with Australia as they kept alive their hopes of a first World Cup appearance in 32 years.

Hareb Abdalla's 54th minute goal sealed a third-place finish in Group A for Rodolfo Arruabarrena's side, ensuring the UAE will take on the Socceroos, who suffered a 1-0 defeat by Saudi Arabia in the late kick-off, in a one-off meeting in Doha on June 7.

The winner of that match with then face the fifth-placed team in the South American qualifiers with a berth in the finals in Qatar at stake.

Abdalla struck against the run of play for the Emiratis, who were facing a Korean side that had not conceded a goal in their previous five qualifiers and were looking for a victory that would secure them top spot in Group A.

Striker Hwang Hee-chan hit the woodwork in the first half as the Koreans dominated but, nine minutes after the restart, Abdalla scored.

The 19-year-old, deputising for suspended first-choice forward Ali Mabkhout, latched onto Mohammed Al Baloushi's pass and calmly stroked the ball past Jo Hyeon-woo.

South Korea hit the frame of the goal again six minutes later when Hwang Ui-jo's header clipped the top of the bar but they could not deny the UAE, who are looking to qualify for the finals for the first time since making their debut in 1990.

The UAE finished in third place in the group ahead of Iraq, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Syria.

Abdulghani Shahad's side needed to beat the Syrians and hope the UAE lost to South Korea, only to go behind in the fourth minute when Alaa Al Dali shot into the roof of the net.

Aymen Hussein headed in an equaliser 14 minutes before the break to give his side a lifeline but the Iraqis were unable to claim a second win in the qualifiers.

Iran earned a 2-0 win over Lebanon in Mashhad through goals from Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh to ensure Dragan Skocic's side finished on top of Group A, two points ahead of the Koreans.

In Group B, Australia, already assured of third place after missing out on automatic qualification following defeat by Japan last week, struggled again as a second-half penalty by Saudi Arabia's Salem Al-Dawsari gave the hosts a deserved win in Jeddah.

The visitors, who fashioned some decent openings despite seeing little possession in the first half, had the ball in the net in the 36th minute but Martin Boyle's effort was chalked off for offside following a lengthy VAR check.

There were few chances for either side after the interval as Saudi Arabia saw out the game with ease to finish top of the group ahead of Japan, who earned a 1-1 draw with Vietnam at Saitama Stadium after a strike from defender Maya Yoshida.

The Japanese team, who confirmed their place at a seventh consecutive World Cup finals with the win over Australia, were forced to fight back after Nguyen Thanh Binh's 19th minute header had given the visitors the lead.

However, Yoshida scored from close range nine minutes into the second half to give a much-changed home side a share of the points.

Oman finished their campaign with a 2-0 win over China in Muscat, with a goals from Arshad Al Alawi and Abdullah Fawaz earning Branko Ivankovic's side the three points.

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