Portugal coach Fernando Santos and his players were naturally delighted after beating Turkey 3-1 at the Estádio do Dragão tonight to reach the World Cup playoff final, but were unanimous in warning believing in anything other than a tough match against the surprise opponents North Macedonia, who sensationally defeated Italy in Palermo.

“That penalty could have complicated matters,” admitted Santos referring to Turkey’s missed opportunity to make it 2-2 in the second half. “But I think it was undisputedly a deserved victory for Portugal.” 

 

Fernando Santos, Portugal coach:

“The first 20-25 minutes were very good in offensive and defensive organisation, with and without the ball. Everything was going perfectly. Then we lowered our intensity, mainly in relation to pressing our opponents. From that moment our opponents began playing and when we have less of the ball, we have more difficulties. There was a ten-minute period there, when things didn’t flow as they should. From the 35th minute, we got back into it and we scored the second goal.

“In the second half we started well again. We didn’t finish our chances and this is what happens in football. You don’t finish, the opponents in a one-off play end up scoring and that penalty could have complicated matters. But I think it was undisputedly a deserved victory for Portugal.”

“Everyone predicted an Italy win, apart from the Macedonian people, for sure. Finals are very tough. I know what it’s like playing a final. Finals are games you have to win, not think that you’ve won them before you’ve played it.”

 


 Related: Portugal one step closer to the World Cup after defeating Turkey 3-1 at the Dragão


 

Otávio, Portugal midfielder:

“I’m really happy. The most important thing was to qualify for the playoff final and then to qualify for the World Cup. Turkey are a great team, but we knew a united Portugal is very strong and that was proven tonight.

“Yes, it was a surprise for me that I started. Do I now expect to start on Tuesday? No, the only thing that’s important is that Portugal win and we go to the World Cup.”

 

Matheus Nunes, Portugal midfielder:

“We worked hard for the victory and now we’re going to prepare for the next game, which is another final. Although we had to go through a playoff, but we remained confident we’ll be at the World Cup.

“My goal? It was incredible. But the taste of victory was even better. The goal would not have had the same taste if we hadn’t won.

“Macedonia? We can’t think it will be easy. We have to give North Macedonia all the respect they deserve. They’ve just knocked out Italy so we have to play them as if we were playing against Italy.”

 

Danilo, Portugal centre-back:

“We know how important Pepe and Rúben Dias are for us. They are really important. Today we played with an unprecedented pair, me and Fonte, I think we didn’t compromise the team and we did well.

“We started the match well, but then we relaxed a bit and this gave Turkey confidence to pull a goal back. It’s very important to keep our focus. We earned our advantage because of the way we controlled the midfield, but then we took the foot off the pedal and gave Turkey confidence.

“Macedonia? Today there are no easy opponents. Macedonia beat Italy and now we have another final we have to win.”

 

Diogo Costa, Portugal goalkeeper:

“I’m proud of myself for having worked hard to reach this moment, to be able to play [for my country]. I’m really proud but above all really happy because we won this game. We are now focused on playing against Macedonia to win and qualify for the World Cup.

“With all due respect to Turkey, we knew we were a team with more quality, but we also knew we had to collectively show that quality and that’s what we did. We gave our all for the country and things turned out naturally.

“When did I find out I was starting? I found out when we arrived at the stadium. It was a special moment, it gave me goosebumps. But to be honest, it was during the warm-up and stepping onto the pitch when I felt most nervous. When the match starts, with such a strong focus, we only think about playing.”

By Tom Kundert

 

Comments (23)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

As much as I have admired Ronaldo, he needs to understand that he needs to make way for younger talent. He can no longer sustain 90 minutes it shows more and more. We have good talent in Felix, Andre Silva, Leal, Jota, etc.

I thought Octavio...

As much as I have admired Ronaldo, he needs to understand that he needs to make way for younger talent. He can no longer sustain 90 minutes it shows more and more. We have good talent in Felix, Andre Silva, Leal, Jota, etc.

I thought Octavio was good, but defensively particularly Danilo looked shakey in possession.

Expect a park the bus approach by Macedonia and Let’s hope that we don’t have the issues as Italy experienced which they should have won to be fair.

You have to make the most of your chances or one freaky goal can bite you in back side.

Let’s go Portugal.

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John
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If the Northern Macedonians beat the Portuguese, does that make them the favorites to win the World Cup?

DannyDaSilva
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No, just makes us slight favorites over Italy in the Losers Cup.

At least we know they are capable, no excuses.

Paulo
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So glad we won today but man we need a new coach regardless what happens on Tuesday.

Bryant
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Yes it was a deserved victory but the performance was below par. Typical modern Portugal win. A disjointed mess overcome by hard work and moments of individual quality. Santos tried to flex his muscles and prove that he was capable of being...

Yes it was a deserved victory but the performance was below par. Typical modern Portugal win. A disjointed mess overcome by hard work and moments of individual quality. Santos tried to flex his muscles and prove that he was capable of being offensively competent for once in his life by merely overloading on the attacking end and only wound up revealing how clueless he is for the umpteenth time. I'm sorry to have to discredit him this much but this is the accurate truth. Three attacking midfielders, two forwards, and full backs pushing all the way up. With Moutinho holding the sole responsibility for ball distribution and initating passes into the final 3rd which he did a commendable job. So it worked thanks also in part to Otavio, Bernardo, Jota applying maximum pressure and having Turkey cough up the ball before they could get a foothold. Against any top team however this would have been tactical suicide leaving a classy, smooth, elegant player like Moutinho who unfortunately is 35 years old and no longer has the legs to sweep up the acres of space left in behind the mids with the even SLOWER Danilo offering up last ditch resistance. Portugal attack had no flow or fluidity only ran the turks ragged and capitalized on their forced errors. Casual supporters will celebrate and toast to Santos' "spot on tactics" but this was a complete joke and easily could have gone the other way if Yilmaz's penalty doesn't clear the bar by a few inches.

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SupremoGino
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I re-read your previous comment about Otavio and that we should stop naturalizing average players.

Teresa also said that he's a complete waste of space and that he won't see any of the pitch during these games.

There's also another person who...

I re-read your previous comment about Otavio and that we should stop naturalizing average players.

Teresa also said that he's a complete waste of space and that he won't see any of the pitch during these games.

There's also another person who wants to drop Moutinho and Otavio.

Would you guys want to take back your words now?

I bet if he had chosen to represent Brazil, he would definitely be starting in place of Fred, Gerson or Lucas Paqueta. I rate Otavio higher than any of these players.

He's a top class player. He's been one of FC Porto's most consistent players this season. I used to love it when he wears the captain armband when Pepe is out injured. And he's an FC Porto faithful. I would rather axe Bruno Fernandes in place of him everytime.

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Dhazer
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Otavio was my MOTM. He was obviously as surprised as I was when he was chosen in the XI.

Don’t get me wrong - I think he’s a real solid player, and being able to play in front of his home crowd was a big bonus and great to see. Other than...

Otavio was my MOTM. He was obviously as surprised as I was when he was chosen in the XI.

Don’t get me wrong - I think he’s a real solid player, and being able to play in front of his home crowd was a big bonus and great to see. Other than Bernardo, he’s one of our only options on RM as well, so seeing Bernardo in the middle of the park further justified his start. Otavio is also productive through the middle as well.

Certainly eating my words at the moment because of the earlier comment but am genuinely pleased with his performance and contribution to the side.

Cheers

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Teresa
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Go watch the replay on Moutinho ("commendable job"), it's clear we didn't see the same game. What I saw from Moutinho was a player that could not track back, could not tackle(look at the goal - Moutinho trying to do a split leg defense—this is...

Go watch the replay on Moutinho ("commendable job"), it's clear we didn't see the same game. What I saw from Moutinho was a player that could not track back, could not tackle(look at the goal - Moutinho trying to do a split leg defense—this is our starting holding/defensive midfielder), and easily gave up the ball and never ever sent anything over the top. Look at the stats he probably had the best passing rating, because his intentions are always to back to a safe pass.

Serious stop the bull - Moutinho has expired. Santos has expired. I agree with you on the tactics - this coach is clueless and he doesn't learn from past mistakes. At the 60 minute mark, our midfield was dead, Bruno and Moutinho should have been subbed, no Santos waits and waits, for what, yes for: let's get this - for the other team to tie the score...... What proof do we need that this coach is a complete mess? No, if you watch aBola program on TV and all the other Portuguese stations - wow Santos did a great job. Don't know but are they all watching a different game?

This is how it works for Santos: let's press hard in the first 15, score a goal and we won the game. Let's stop taking chances and play for the 1-0. It's enough.

Defense - Fonte, and Danillo are you serious, Dalot yet again letting his mark come over the top and almost scoring. Can someone explain to me how we don't have a younger CB who could get experience playing in Nations League Games? Ok, we don't have players but how do we know if we don't try.

Midfield - Octavio was excellent, fought, and fought. Bernado coming back to play the ball, that's what we want. Bruno - please stop directing traffic and play the game.

Forwards - Ronaldo (this is the honest truth) is 37 he needs to start thinking about how he could impact the game in a 60-minute game - we play again on Tuesday and does anybody think he could go the full 90?
Jota - I love his play but sometimes wow, a racehorse with blinders on. Great goal, but how many chances were wasted.

Goalie - applaud Santos here - great move - Costa plays the ball out of the back beautifully.

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Rodrigues Antonio
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Ronaldo didn't play that bad , he was linking up with teammates decently. We win Tuesday and this playoff will be a blessing in disguise. Important experience for the youngsters and a ton of extra money generated for the FPF from the 2 home games.

Gee Dee
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Ronaldo career is worthy of the GOAT, especially everything he has done for the NT, but......

Did you see the game?

This has got to be one of his worst performances for the NT, slipping, completely missed the bicycle kick.

Had a negative...

Ronaldo career is worthy of the GOAT, especially everything he has done for the NT, but......

Did you see the game?

This has got to be one of his worst performances for the NT, slipping, completely missed the bicycle kick.

Had a negative impact on the ball circulation as the game went on and stopped pressing.

Don't think I am trying to disrespect him, anyone can have a bad game. He can probably hit a hat trick against Macedonia and should be applauded for when he is great, but today wasn't the case.

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Paulo
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I actually liked his performance. It was uncharacteristically unselfish and he made a number of precise, quick passes to teammates. Not a typical Ronaldo role, but I thought he was effective away from the scoresheet.

Greg
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Ronaldo first half was OK in part because he wasn't just trying to do everything by himself and actually passed the ball to other players while not barking orders at them every time they didn't pass the ball to him, but second half he was...

Ronaldo first half was OK in part because he wasn't just trying to do everything by himself and actually passed the ball to other players while not barking orders at them every time they didn't pass the ball to him, but second half he was atrocious and we basically played a man down. He should have come off after 60 minutes. What if Turkey had equalised? We would have had to play extra time with a static Ronaldo.

Ronaldo should either play the first 60 minutes and then come off or play the role of super sub. No doubt he can still be a top finisher but his best days are well and truly behind him now and we have so many other quality players who deserve more time.

I think Fernando Santos should have gone after the last Euros (for me it was scandalous how bad we were at the Euros) but he got some big calls right last night in fairness and the defensive issues were forced on him, but he continues to lack any kind of balls to bench Ronaldo.

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Christopher Santos
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Lol, even when we win, people discredit Santos and Ronaldo. ‘Fans’ on this website are super fickle and amateurs (hence why they are not professional scouts, coaches, etc.)

Remember, if that Portugal goal counted with VAR, we wouldn’t have been...

Lol, even when we win, people discredit Santos and Ronaldo. ‘Fans’ on this website are super fickle and amateurs (hence why they are not professional scouts, coaches, etc.)

Remember, if that Portugal goal counted with VAR, we wouldn’t have been here. Santos doesn’t play on the field. The players do.

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John
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You guys also have to remember this , if we win on Tuesday, we'll be one of only 4 teams in Europe to have qualified for every major tournament in the new millennium. England, Italy and the Netherlands can't even boast that. Portugal ,...

You guys also have to remember this , if we win on Tuesday, we'll be one of only 4 teams in Europe to have qualified for every major tournament in the new millennium. England, Italy and the Netherlands can't even boast that. Portugal , Spain , Germany and France are the four. After this World Cup there will be 48 teams in 2026 and there are now 24 teams in the Euro so it could be a very long time before we miss a tournament.

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Gee Dee
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We're through and got a break to avoid Italy. Not discrediting North Macedonian, but Italy's midfield would of tore us to shreds. Thought the team was fine, Fonte and Danilo is far from the ideal pairing with both being shaking in possession but...

We're through and got a break to avoid Italy. Not discrediting North Macedonian, but Italy's midfield would of tore us to shreds. Thought the team was fine, Fonte and Danilo is far from the ideal pairing with both being shaking in possession but with injures occurring Santos is going to roll with what he knows. And yes I'm in agreement that another younger CB should have been worked into the fold at this point.

Ronaldo should of been subbed, this game was end to end for large stretches and he got gassed. He still offers goals, but a tired Ronaldo on his heals just hurts the team when everyone needs to be working.

There has to be a story about the GK situation. Found the info and comments about Lopes vague, and surprised for Costa to get the start. All while the consensus among many is that Sa should of been included in the squad from the start and possibly be the number 1.

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Brian/RI/US
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So I recorded the matches yesterday as I was at work and I watched the Italy game as well, it was 1 sided and 1 way traffic but without Chiesa and Spinazola Italy had a hard time getting balls to Immobile who isnt great with his head, he was 2...

So I recorded the matches yesterday as I was at work and I watched the Italy game as well, it was 1 sided and 1 way traffic but without Chiesa and Spinazola Italy had a hard time getting balls to Immobile who isnt great with his head, he was 2 manned all match. Immobile is probably one of the best finishers with his feet, he is lethal but he is slight and not a great header of the ball.

I wouldnt be shocked to see Andre Silva start v Macedonia as he is strong in the air as it seems Macedonia cut out the lanes and force you to cross it and if you dont have a target man of some stature and you ride your luck (as Macedonia did) you pull off that upset.

Yah I would rather play Macedonia, stop fooling yourselves with "hey they did this or that." anyday of the YEAR over Italy. This is a huge advantage for Portugal when it comes to opponents.

This might be a slow, ugly match unless Portugal score early and put the onus on Macedonia and umm, the only player I recognize is Elmas (Napoli) everyone else is a mystery. Does Pandev still play for Macedonia? How the heck did they get this far?

I await the Macedonia breakdown article from our friends at Purtogoal.

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Val
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@Dhazer

I'm not a fan of naturalizing players unless they have a deep admiration for Portugal beyond the footballing landscape and also believe with reasonable certainty that they'll go on to have a long and successful tenure with the national...

@Dhazer

I'm not a fan of naturalizing players unless they have a deep admiration for Portugal beyond the footballing landscape and also believe with reasonable certainty that they'll go on to have a long and successful tenure with the national team similar to the careers Deco and Pepe have had. We wouldn't want a bit part player or someone to just fill in some gaps. That in particular would devalue a countries merit on the world stage in my opinion.

As for Otávio I'm glad to see him take his opportunity, he came out prepared and worked exceptionally hard on and off the ball. He deserves to be congratulated. However, I can assure you he was the last player on the Turkey scouting report. Nobody knows who he is outside of Portugal therefore he was given the most space to operate in our front six.

Our team overall still looked like a jumbled mess, so many mids and inverted wingers.. barely any flow or collectiveness as I've said before. I'm voting for a player like Guedes or Leao to start verses Macedonia. Portugal must utilize the full width of the pitch against 10 men who will surely park the bus.

P.S - I rate Matheus Nunes and he's already become one of my preferred players. He's also Brazilian but started his youth career in Portugal so to me that fits the exception mold. Any player who wants to represent should represent since their youth otherwise it's really not fair to guys like Ricardo Horta.

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SupremoGino
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