Robert Lewandowski gave Poland an early lead and Piotr Zieliński doubled their lead 23 minutes later to clinch a spot in Qatar, while Bruno Fernandes booked Portugal a spot after scoring a brace against North Macedonia. Just one more place at the World Cup is available for UEFA, with the winner of Ukraine vs. Scotland playing Wales in the summer to determine who it will be.
Given a bye once their match against Russia was canceled, Poland defied the odds to beat Sweden, having lost to them in the European Championship just a few months ago. Since then, the rather unspectacular manager Paulo Sousa exited and Czeslaw Michniewicz stepped in. Michniewicz’s first game in charge for Poland was a friendly on Thursday, while his first win came in his first competitive match – which took Poland to the World Cup.
Portugal were surprised to not qualify automatically, with a late Aleksandar Mitrović goal in qualifiers ensuring Serbia advanced instead. A victory over Turkey had another surprise in store, as many expected to face Italy in the next round. However, North Macedonia upset the Italians, setting up an exciting matchup in Portugal. Two goals from Fernandes ensured that Portugal will again play in the World Cup, something they haven’t missed since 1998.
Image Courtesy of Светлана Бекетова, CC BY-SA 3.0 GFDL, via Wikimedia Commons.
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