Portugal survived a late scare against Turkey to book their spot in the final of the FIFA World Cup Qualifier playoffs.

The buildup to the play-off semifinal was dominated by a potential Italy-Portugal Final, which would have seen one of the European giants miss out on the World Cup berth. The night did not pan out the way neutral football fans might have wanted, as Italy crashed out against North Macedonia, and the Portuguese progressed.

Now that Fernando Santos’ men have progressed to the final, they are the favourites to beat North Macedonia and get on the plane to Qatar. Otavio, Diogo Jota and a late strike from Rafael Leao sealed the progression for Fernando Santos’ side, with Cristiano Ronaldo missing some gilt-edged chances during the match.

The hosts were bright from the start, with Jota missing a great chance from three yards out. Around the 15th minute, Bernardo Silva’s shot clipped the inside of the post and fell invitingly at Otavio’s feet, who netted the opener. Having shown complacency after the first goal, Portugal were lucky to go into the break with a 2-0 advantage as Diogo Jota made amends for his earlier miss with a headed strike.

They retained control of the game in the second period, although there were plenty of twists ahead. Turkey captain Burak Yilmaz pulled a goal back out of nowhere to set up a frantic climax. Jose Fonte conceded a clumsy penalty with seven minutes to go, giving the visitors a great chance to level things up. Yilmaz, however, was unfortunate to shoot it just over as the ball brushed the crossbar.

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Portugal made amends for their mistakes late in the game when Matheus Nunes stuck a third goal to seal the passage into the final. They now face North Macedonia and will head into the match as firm favourites to qualify for the Qatar World Cup. Here’s how the Portugal players fared in their win over Turkey.

Diogo Costa – 6.5/10

Costa handled his penalty box duties well and showed expert ball-handling when he was called into action. He made a few smart saves to keep Portugal in the game and was extremely fortunate with the Yilmaz penalty, as the striker stuck it high.

Diogo Dalot – 4/10

Dalot did not have the best of games from right-back, as he had barely any influence from the position. There was nothing on offer in the final third, while his defending was somewhat average.

Danilo Pereira – 5/10

The defensive midfielder operating in a centre-back role did a decent job to prevent the danger at the back. Pereira was steady, but there are other elements a central defender offers, which he didn’t.

Jose Fonte – 3/10

Fonte was supposed to marshall the backline with his experience. Instead, he almost cost Portugal a clean victory after clumsily conceding the penalty late on. Moreover, he lacked vision in his passing and looked second-best to fellow veteran Yilmaz, as the strike pulled a goal back.

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Raphael Guerreiro – 6/10

Guerreiro was the best among the Portugal defenders, putting in an energetic performance. The Borussia Dortmund star had a good game considering he was so involved in all parts of the pitch, especially in the final third, making some notable contributions.

Bruno Fernandes – 4/10

Fernandes had a frustrating evening, considering he consistently drifted in and out of the game. He should have had an assist for a one perfect set-piece delivery and otherwise was far from his usual self.

Joao Moutinho – 6/10

Moutinho kept things in check in central midfield, as he always proved to be the man to calm things whenever Turkey got some level of control in the battle in the middle of the park.

Bernardo Silva – 6/10

He was deployed in a similar position as at Manchester City, and the decision reaped rewards, as Silva was industrious in his display. The opening goal resulted from the midfielder’s good work hitting the post with a shot, while he attacked the ball at every given opportunity.

Otavio – 8/10

It was a tremendous outing from Otavio, who was an ever-present threat in the final third. Apart from a few chances, the attacker came up with the opening goal after showing good positional awareness to be in the right place at the right time.

Cristiano Ronaldo – 4/10

The Manchester United man continued his irregular form in front of the goal after missing some crucial opportunities against Turkey. Among those was a sitter and a shot that hit the crossbar in second-half stoppage time, as Jota and Otavio outshined the superstar in the clash.

Diogo Jota – 8/10

Jota kept up with his club form and created plenty of problems for the Turkish defenders. Having missed a great chance in the opening period, the forward made amends by planting a brilliant header past the keeper before the break, which gave Portugal the advantage in the game.

Substitutes

Joao Felix – 6/10

He created trouble for the Turkey backline, who failed to contain Felix and his fancy footwork.

William Carvalho – 6/10

Carvalho was used to shore up the midfield as Portugal looked to protect their lead and see out the game. He did his job properly until the final whistle.

Nuno Mendes – 5/10

Not much involvement since coming on.

Matheus Nunes – 7/10

A good cameo from the midfielder, who combined well with fellow substitute Leao to score the crucial third goal.

Rafael Leao – 7/10

He came off the bench to get himself an assist late in the game for Nunes’ strike.

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