Portugal is on the verge of booking a spot at the winter World Cup finals in Qatar after dispatching Turkey 3-1 in the qualifying semi-final.

Otavio opened the scoring in the 15th minute, being the quickest to the ball after Bernardo Silva’s long-range effort cannoned off the post.

Liverpool striker Diogo Jota got in on the action, negating a strong response from the Turks to convert Otavio’s cross with a trademark header just before the halftime whistle.

Turkey gave it a go in the second period, however, halving the deficit through a 65th-minute goal from Burak Yilmaz.

Turkey had a glorious opportunity to get on level terms late in the game. Turkey had a chance to equalise in the 85th minute after Portugal had taken a two-goal lead.

Burak Ylmaz’s penalty kick, however, soared over the crossbar, allowing Portugal to escape.

The hosts would go on to win 3-1 in stoppage time, putting Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal one step closer to the World Cup.

The North Macedonia challenge

North Macedonia stunned Italy in their play-off semi-final in Palermo on Thursday, winning 1-0 thanks to an Aleksandar Trajkovski goal in stoppage time, denying Italy a second consecutive World Cup berth.

North Macedonia will visit the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, with the winners going to Qatar.

Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal side, who preceded Italy as European champions in 2016, may have been bracing themselves for a decisive showdown with the Azzurri, but instead, North Macedonia will be the visitors to the Estadio do Dragao in Porto, with the winners going to Qatar.

“At the moment football is different. Anybody can beat anybody. Names, numbers, and statistics don’t matter,” warned veteran Portugal midfielder Joao Moutinho when asked about facing the country of two million people ranked a modest 67th in the world.

“We have to show on the pitch that we have more quality and impose our own game.”

“Now we must concentrate on North Macedonia,” Santos (manager of Portugal) stated. “If they can overcome Italy, it means it will be very difficult for us as well.”

Portugal is attempting to qualify for the World Cup for the sixth time in a row.

Ronaldo, 37, has appeared in soccer’s pinnacle event four times in a row. He also competed in four European Championships in a row, earning the title in 2016.

Failure to qualify for the World Cup would be nothing short of a disgrace for Portugal, given the calibre of their squad — Atletico Madrid’s Joao Felix, for example, was only on the bench against Turkey.

Ronaldo, the all-time leading international goal-scorer at the age of 37, will almost certainly be playing in his final World Cup if Portugal advances.