Portugal - North Macedonia: Cristiano's last shot Listen to this article

This Thursday marks a year since Germany’s 2-1 loss to North Macedonia in Duisburg. The match marked the end of the Joachim Low era manshaft And brought Macedonia to a point that had never been there in its history. With hardly any track record, the team became a troubled selection overnight. Of the eight games that followed, he lost only one – against Germany – and last Thursday knocked Italy out of the World Cup playoffs. The drama in the Adriatic spread to a national holiday in Skopje. Buoyed by the atmosphere of excitement, Macedonian Prime Minister Dimitar Kovacevski boarded the plane that would take footballers to Porto to play against Portugal in the deciding match of the World Cup play-off in Qatar. Standing in the aisle of the plane, Kovacevsky harassed the members of the expedition, promising them 500,000 euros and diplomatic passport premiums if they obtained tickets.

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“It’s a good omen,” ventured Ingolstadt defender Visser Musliu from the second Bundesliga when he learned his team would be staying at the same hotel that hosted Chelsea on the eve of the last Champions League final, which played and won At Tha O Drago’s Stadium. On the same platform this Tuesday (8:45 pm, 4 pm), Macedonia will become the last hurdle between the World Cup and the best generation in Portugal’s history.

Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Robben Dias and Joao Felix are the first representatives of the most sudden outburst of talent in a European country in the last decade. But once he gained the experience he needed to claim a dominant position in the squad hierarchy, friction arose. Cristiano Ronaldo is reluctant to behave just like any other player. At the age of 37 he false nine The most determined of the century tries to make the whole team revolve around him. The malaise had begun to take shape before the last European Championship. First with Fernando Santos, the coach, who warns that Cristiano is no longer in physical condition to be where he wants to play, but that he must adapt to the team, not the other way around.

The hero of the last press conference before the match, Cristiano claimed to be a collectivist when someone immediately asked him if the World Cup was unthinkable without him. “There is no World Cup without Portugal, there is no person here,” he said; “It’s a group, it’s everyone.”

“Surprised”

Cristiano insists on pursuing his career without losing specific weight. The reality of the playing field refutes his claim. Cristiano played a total of eight World Cup qualifying matches. Always as a starter and without ever changing. He only scored against Ireland (2) and Luxembourg (4). Of the three goals he scored against Luxembourg, the first two were from penalties. Against Serbia – the winners of the group – they were left without a score in 180 minutes. It was also not decisive in the semi-finals of the play-offs against Turkey last Thursday. opposite of this. His presence made irritable peers like Bruno Fernandes lost in the creative processes of a team like Moutinho who, due to a lack of empathy, had a hard time finding their way to the goal. Turkey was one penalty away – Yilmaz missed – from drawing 2-2 and bringing Portugal to the brink. Macedonia is no less dangerous.

“Macedonia surprised Italy,” Cristiano said. “He did that in a lot of games. But I guess tomorrow will not surprise us. Portugal will be better and we will go to the World Cup.

Macedonian is a very limited team that collects in its region the best rocks in Europe. Stuck in the last ditch, their midfielders and defenders are masters in the art of narrowing down spaces, lifting obstacles and taking out balls. If Portugal don’t straighten the course of the game and fears start to sound in O Dragao’s stand, its players will have to show the harmony they lacked. Then the fate of the home team will come very close to the fate of Italy.

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