Cristiano Ronaldo will get another chance to lift the World Cup.
The leading international men’s scorer could play in his fifth World Cup after Portugal defeated Northern Macedonia 2-0 in a European play-off match, one of seven places in football’s leading tournament decided on Tuesday.
Thirty-two teams, including the hosts, will play in Qatar from November 21. As of Tuesday, 27 teams have qualified with two additional places to be determined on Wednesday. Two intercontinental play-off matches will be held in June along with two matches to determine the final European spotlight.
Portugal’s victory finalized the eight points for Friday’s draw: host Qatar along with Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Portugal and Spain.
Pot two will include Croatia, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Uruguay, and if they qualify on Wednesday, Mexico and the United States.
All eyes were on Northern Macedonia, who are vying for their first World Cup place after surprisingly eliminating Italy last week with a 1-0 victory. But it was not meant to be for the small country that gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. This will be Portugal’s eighth World Cup and sixth in a row.
The coveted World Cup trophy is the one prize that eluded Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner. While the 37-year-old is likely to be a lock for his team in Qatar, fellow international star Mohammed Salah will miss out after Egypt fell to Senegal on Tuesday.
Senegal came through with a penalty shootout for one of Africa’s five berths. Salah’s Liverpool team-mate Sadio Mané struck out the winning penalty after the teams drew 1-1, sending Senegal to its third World Cup. Mané also had the shootout winner against Egypt in the Africa Cup of Nations final on 6 February.
Ghana qualified after a 1-1 draw with Nigeria behind Thomas Partey’s goal in the 10th minute to get through to away goals. The Black Stars, who eliminated the USA in 2006 and ’10, will make their fourth World Cup appearance.
Algeria won its first leg and competed to qualify after missing the 2018 World Cup, but Cameroon came back on Tuesday with a 2-1 victory over Karl Toko Ekambi’s goal in the fourth minute of the second extra period to to progress to away goals. Morocco defeated the Democratic Republic of the Congo 4-1 to secure its place along with 5-2. Tunisia played to a goalless draw against Mali and qualified with a total victory of 1-0.
Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty in the 50th minute and Poland secured their second consecutive World Cup place with a 2-1 victory over Sweden in another European play-off. It was Lewandowski’s 75th international goal in 129 appearances.
Canada has already won a place in North and Central America and the Caribbean, its first World Cup appearance in 36 years. The United States and Mexico almost secured places with the final round matches set for Wednesday. The American men, who missed the 2018 World Cup, are visiting Costa Rica, while Mexico will host El Salvador.
Costa Rica currently sits in fourth place with a chance to go to an intercontinental playoff game against the winner of Wednesday’s Oceania match between New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.
The European teams that qualified include Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Poland and Portugal.
Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay have qualified in South America, and the team in fifth place will compete for a place on June 7 against the winner of Asia’s fifth place play-off match between Australia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Asian regional teams that have qualified are Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Ukraine was originally scheduled to play Scotland in a European play-off match, but the match was postponed until June due to Russia’s invasion. The winner plays in Wales for Europe’s last place.
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