Portugal moved one step closer to reaching the World Cup with a 3-1 win over Turkey, whose striker Burak Yilmaz skied a penalty five minutes from full-time that would have drawn the sides level in their play-off semi-final.
Portugal have set up a 2022 World Cup play-off final date with North Macedonia on March 29 as Fernando Santos’ side edged out a 3-1 semi-final win over Turkey.
The hosts dominated the first 45 minutes as Otavio, and Diogo Jota deservedly gave them a 2-0 lead at the break, with 2016 European champions seemingly having one foot in the final.
However, their struggles to find a third goal after the restart left the door open for Turkey, and Cengiz Under slipped in Burak Yilmaz to fire the visitors back into the contest.
But despite that swing in momentum for Turkey, Yilmaz’s 86th minute missed spot-kick ultimately ended their chances as substitute Rafael Leao wrapped it up in added time.
Portugal took the early lead in the game in the 15th minute through 27-year-old Porto attacker Otavio who found the net after the rebound from Bernado Silva. Otavio then set up Portugal’s second with an out-swinging cross that Diogo Jota headed past Turkey goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir to stake Fernando Santos’ side to a 2-0 lead at half-time.
Turkey scored back one goal in the 65th minute to make the game more interesting. Burak Yilmaz found the net for Turkey. Turkey started to play confidently after returning a goal. VAR handed Turkey a golden chance to level the score from the penalty spot after a pitchside review showed Jose Fonte fouled Enes Unal in the area, but Yilmaz skied his effort over the crossbar as Portugal hung on to their lead.
In the stoppage time, Portugal scored the third goal to finish off the game and is now one step away from booking the ticket to Qatar.
“I wasn’t upset with the team but we played with fire today,” Santos told reporters. “We had the game under control but slowed down. Obviously the players are not machines, we didn’t manage to score for 3-0 and those things can happen in football. But I’m glad we reacted very well. That moment [the penalty] could have been difficult for us.”
“We need to show the same respect to North Macedonia that we would to Italy,” Santos said.
“I told you before we could be playing them, those games are not a joke, it’s like a final and anything can happen. You have to face it with the focus and concentration that it deserves. A team that goes to Italy and beats the European champions doesn’t need introductions.”