Portugal Beat Turkey, Through To World Cup Qualifying Play-Off Final

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Portugal are through to a decisive World Cup qualifying play-off final next week after beating Turkey 3-1 in Porto on Thursday, but only after Burak Yilmaz missed a crucial late penalty for the visitors.

The home side were cruising at the Estadio do Dragao thanks to first-half goals by Brazilian-born midfielder Otavio and Liverpool forward Diogo Jota.

But Turkey’s veteran skipper Yilmaz pulled a goal back in the 65th minute, setting up a tense finish.

Turkey were then awarded a late penalty when a foul on Enes Unal was detected by the German referee following a VAR review, but Yilmaz put the spot-kick over the bar and Matheus Nunes secured Portugal’s victory in stoppage time.

The 36-year-old Yilmaz may now never get the chance to play at a World Cup as Turkey’s wait to return to the finals goes on.

They have not appeared at the World Cup since coming third in Japan and South Korea in 2002.

Portugal have not missed out on the tournament since 1998 and they will now expect to secure a spot in Qatar when they host North Macedonia in a play-off decider next Tuesday.

At 37, Cristiano Ronaldo’s dream of World Cup glory remains alive and few sides in international football can match the attacking threat of Fernando Santos’s team.

READ ALSO: Italy Miss Second Straight World Cup After Shock Defeat To North Macedonia

Here Santos left Joao Felix on the bench and handed a surprise start to Otavio, the Brazilian-born Porto winger.

The 2016 European champions started strongly and went ahead on the quarter-hour mark as a Bernardo Silva shot hit the post and Otavio, winning just his third cap, netted the follow-up.

The second goal arrived three minutes before the interval at the end of a flowing move, as Otavio clipped a cross from the edge of the box for Jota to head in at the back post.

Portugal were cruising but then Turkey pulled one back in the 65th minute as Cengiz Under slipped a pass in for Lille forward Yilmaz to score.

The home side, missing their first-choice centre-back pairing of Pepe and Ruben Dias due to Covid-19 and injury respectively, began to look shaky and Turkey took advantage.

Jose Fonte’s contact with Unal in the box was initially missed by referee Daniel Siebert but he awarded a penalty after reviewing the images, despite the Turkey player clearly exaggerating the impact of the challenge.

Yilmaz could have forced extra time but his 85th-minute kick grazed the bar and flew over, to the relief of the home crowd.

Substitute Nunes, also born in Brazil, made it 3-1 in the fourth minute of stoppage time, in which all-time top international goal-scorer Ronaldo also hit the bar as Portugal progress.

AFP

Portugal Eases COVID-19 Travel Curbs For Jabbed EU Arrivals

A nurse prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on December 27, 2020. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Portugal on Sunday announced an easing of its travel restrictions for holders of European Covid-19 certificates by scrapping a requirement to test negative before entering the country.

Travellers with an EU digital health pass or other recognised vaccine passes will be exempt from having to prove a recent negative test result from Monday.

The EU Covid certificate proves a traveller is fully vaccinated, has recently tested negative or has recovered from a Covid infection within the past six months.

The move comes after the European Council recommended harmonising the bloc’s travel rules to avoid placing restrictions on fully vaccinated travellers from neighbouring EU states with higher infection rates.

READ ALSO: New Zealand Win Historic Olympic Gold, Men’s Downhill Postponed

Like other EU member states, Portugal has since early December required passengers aged 12 and above to test negative before entering the country regardless of their vaccination status.

On Thursday, the government reduced the validity of lateral flow test results from 48 to 24 hours.

Portugal has entered a steep wave of coronavirus cases driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, recording more than 41,000 new infections and 44 deaths on Saturday.

Portugal Begins Early Voting In Snap General Election

 

Early voting began in Portugal on Sunday for a snap general election, with polls showing the incumbent Socialists still ahead though with their lead over the nearest centre-right rivals narrowing.

Over 300,000 voters have signed up to vote a week early, with polls opening at 8:00 am (0800 GMT).

The early voting option was provided this year to reduce crowding on election day, next Sunday, due to the pandemic.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa, who has led two consecutive minority Socialist governments since 2015, was expected to cast his ballot in the northern city of Porto at around 0930 GMT.

Read Also: Burkina Faso Govt Denies Army Takeover After Barracks Gunfire

The snap polls were called after he failed to secure support for his 2022 budget from the two smaller far-left parties that had been propping up his government.

It was the first time a budget was voted down since the EU member returned to democracy in 1974.

The Socialists have around 38 percent support, compared with just over 30 percent for the main opposition centre-right PSD, which would leave Costa once again without a working majority in parliament, according to a poll of polls compiled by Radio Renascenca.

But surveys carried out in recent days have shown the gap narrowing, with at least one putting the two parties in a statistical tie when the margin of error is taken into account.

The election could see gains for the upstart far-right party Chega, which entered parliament for the first time with a single seat during the last election in 2019.

Polls give it nearly seven percent support, which would make it the third-biggest force in parliament.

Born Politician

Costa has blasted his former allies — the Left Bloc and the Communist Party — as “irresponsible” for voting down his budget and has appealed for voters to give him an outright majority in the 230-seat parliament.

During the last election in October 2019, the socialist got 108 seats, eight shy of an outright majority.

“For the first time, I believe” it is possible, Costa said during a recent interview with weekly newspaper Expresso.

If his party wins the most votes but again lacks a majority, Costa has said he plans to govern alone by negotiating support from other parties for laws on a case-by-case basis.

But Lisbon University political scientist Jose Santana Pereira said it will be “difficult” for Costa to form a stable government without the far-left.

“It is foreseeable that the current balance of power will be maintained,” he told AFP.

Aiding Costa is the fact that the PSD is divided.

Its leader, former Porto mayor Rui Rio, has faced three leadership challenges over the past four years.

“Costa is a born politician, and in the eyes of voters he is better prepared than Rui Rio,” said University of Lisbon political scientist Marina Costa Lobo.

Covid Election Measures

During Costa’s first term, Portugal enjoyed four years of economic growth, which allowed the government to reverse austerity measures imposed during Europe’s 2011 debt crisis, while posting the country’s first budget surplus since 1974.

The last two years have been marked by the Covid-19 health crisis.

Portugal, a nation of around 10 million people, hopes it will soon turn the page on the pandemic thanks to the success of its vaccination programme, which has given it one of the world’s highest immunisation rates.

However, like other European nations, Portugal is grappling with a surge in infections fuelled by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Portuguese voters who are infected and in isolation will be allowed to leave home to cast their ballot on January 30, with a recommended hour-long slot from 6:00-7:00 pm when polling stations are traditionally less busy.

Officials estimated as many as 600,000 people are currently in quarantine.

Portugal’s Road To Qatar World Cup Now ‘Difficult’ – Ronaldo

File photo: Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group A football match between Portugal and Serbia, at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, on November 14, 2021. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Portugal and Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo said in an interview broadcast late on Thursday there are “difficult battles” ahead if his country are to qualify for the World Cup for the sixth successive time.

Portugal, the 2016 European champions, face Turkey in a play-off semi-final in March before a potential final against Italy, the team that succeeded them last year as kings of the continent.

“It would be very sad if we did not reach our objective, which is the World Cup,” the five-time Ballon d’Or winner told ESPN Brasil.

Ronaldo has not missed a major international tournament since making his debut for Portugal in 2003.

He has played in four World Cups and five Euros, also reaching the final in 2004.

“In football and in life we go through difficult moments but what matters is the ability to get back up,” the 36-year-old said.

“We know we have difficult battles, first against Turkey. And if we win, I think it will be against Italy. We will see. In March we will be prepared, it will be a battle, it will be great for football fans.”

Portugal host Turkey on March 24 while Italy entertain North Macedonia, with the final five days later.

At least one of the last two European champions will not make it to the World Cup in Qatar from November 21 to December 18.

“That’s life, there are no perfect scenarios. We have to face things as they are,” said Ronaldo, who has experienced a mixed return to Old Trafford this season.

While his personal return of 14 goals in 21 games in all competitions is impressive, the United are struggling down in seventh place in the Premier League, although they have reached the Champions League last 16 and FA Cup fourth round.

An Ex-Madrid Assistant Coach… Six Things To Know About New Eagles Manager

File photo:  Former Venezuela coach Jose Peseiro gestures during the Conmebol Copa America 2021 football tournament group phase match between Venezuela and Peru at the Mane Garrincha Stadium in Brasilia, Brazil, on June 27, 2021. EVARISTO SA / AFP

 

Following weeks of deliberations and consultations, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Wednesday named Jose Peseiro as the new coach of the Super Eagles. 

The 61-year-old will be taking over from German gaffer, Gernot Rohr, who was dismissed earlier in the month after some unconvincing performances by the three-time African champions.

While his much-awaited appointment came when the senior national team’s camp had opened for the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), the federation clarified that the Portuguese coach will not be taking Nigeria to the competition.

It instead explained that interim manager, Austin Eguaveon, will be in charge as the country pushes for a fourth continental crown in Cameroon early next year.

Despite a handful of names making the news in the quest for a new Eagles manager, fans are divided over the NFF’s choice.

READ ALSO: Osimhen Tests Positive For COVID-19 Again

Below are six things to know about the Super Eagles latest handler: 

A Spell With Real Madrid

Peseiro is reputed to have had spells with some top clubs in Europe including Real Madrid.

He was an assistant to compatriot Carlos Queiroz in 2003.  The Los Blancos finished fourth that season, leading to their dismissal from the job.

Quit Last Job Over Unpaid Wages

With less than two weeks to a triple-header of World Cup qualifiers, he resigned from his job as Venezuela’s coach in August 2018, citing unpaid wages.

President of the Venezuela Football Federation, Jorge Gimenez, admitted that Peseiro was owed “no more and no less than one year” of salary, adding that “he’s hardly been paid anything from his tenure.”

First Time Coaching African National Team

While the former FC Porto coach is not new to African football having managed the Egyptian side, Al Ahly, the Nigerian job is the first time he will be in charge of a national team on the continent.

At Al Ahly, he, however, did not last more than the 2015/2016 season with the African Super Cup holders.

Managed/Worked With High-Profile Teams/Coaches

Apart from Real Madrid, Peseiro has also had stints with some top clubs in Europe.

The coach has worked with top Portuguese sides like FC Porto and Sporting CP, playing in the Champions League with the latter. In addition, the new Nigerian manager at some point worked with Jose Mourinho and Carlos Queiroz.

Well-Educated

Nigeria’s new coach has a Master’s degree in sports science, a big plus for the Super Eagles.

Began Coaching In 1991

Having retired from playing football at 34, the Portuguese started his coaching career as a player-coach with Union Santarem in the Portuguese fourth division.

Chelsea’s Abramovich Gets Portuguese Citizenship

In this file photo taken on May 21, 2017 Chelsea's Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds, as players celebrate their league title win at the end of the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London. Ben STANSALL / AFP
In this file photo taken on May 21, 2017, Chelsea’s Russian owner Roman Abramovich applauds, as players celebrate their league title win at the end of the Premier League football match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London.

 

Portugal has granted citizenship to Russian oligarch and Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich, Portugal’s government said Thursday.

“The Institute of Registers and Notaries confirms the existence of a procedure for naturalisation in the name of Roman Abramovich,” a justice ministry spokesman said.

“He proved he was a descendant of Portuguese Sephardi Jews through a certificate delivered by the Israelite community of Porto,” he said, and his bid received “a favourable decision on April 13” this year.

READ ALSO: Chelsea Star Ziyech Omitted From Morocco Cup of Nations Squad

Portugal has since 2015 offered Portuguese nationality to Sephardi Jews by way of reparation for the expulsions and persecution suffered by their ancestors at the end of the 15th century.

The billionaire has also been granted Israeli citizenship.

Abramovich is worth more than $14 billion (12.3 billion euros), according to Forbes. He ranked 142nd on the magazine’s 2021 list of the globe’s billionaires.

AFP

Portugal, France Begin Vaccinating Younger Children

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 27, 2021, a medical staff member prepares a syringe with a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) Covid-19 vaccine, in the Lyon Gerland vaccination center. JEFF PACHOUD / AFP

 

Portugal, one of the countries with the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates worldwide, began inoculating over-fives Saturday, and France said it was ready to roll out jabs for them from next week.

Europe is currently battling to rein in the spread of the highly mutated Omicron variant of the coronavirus, believed to be much more infectious, and EU chief Ursula von der Leyen has warned the new strain could be dominant in Europe by mid-January.

A number of countries have already opened up their immunisation drives to younger children, even though the EU’s health agency has warned that jabs alone will not be sufficient to stop the variant’s rise.

In Portugal, where 88.9 percent of the population is vaccinated, more than 60,000 children aged between five and 11 were set to receive their first jab of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine this weekend.

And in France, health minister Olivier Veran said that jabs will start to be administered to children in the same age group from Wednesday.

“If all goes well, we will start vaccination of children on the afternoon of December 22 in specially adapted centres,” he told France Inter radio.

READ ALSO: Death Toll From Philippines Typhoon Passes 30

But even as children line up to get jabs, the EU health agency ECDC has said measures like mask-wearing, distance working, and the prevention of crowds were essential to reduce the burden on healthcare systems in the time available, with vaccines alone taking too long.

The EU’s medicines watchdog last month approved the lower-dosage Pfizer-BioNTech shot for five to 11-year-olds, an age group experiencing high coronavirus infection rates across the continent.

Denmark, which has seen a surge in cases attributed to the new Omicron variant, and some Austrian regions already began offering jabs to younger kids in November.

The United States was the first large country to take the plunge and has so far vaccinated more than five million children in the five-to-11 age bracket.

Serbia Defeat Portugal, Qualify For 2022 World Cup

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualification group A football match between Portugal and Serbia, at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, on November 14, 2021. PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Serbia stunned Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to qualify for the 2022 World Cup as Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 90th-minute winner secured a 2-1 victory in Lisbon on Sunday.

Portugal now face two rounds of playoffs in March if they are to make it to Qatar, unlike Spain, who qualified with a 1-0 win over Sweden thanks to Alvaro Morata’s goal four minutes from time in Seville.

AFP

Ronaldo Scores On European Record 181st International Game


Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during the international friendly football match between Portugal and Qatar at the Algarve stadium in Loule, near Faro, southern Portugal, on October 9, 2021. CARLOS COSTA / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo marked a record 181st international appearance with a goal as Portugal defeated World Cup hosts Qatar 3-0 in a friendly game on Saturday.

The Manchester United star surpassed Sergio Ramos, who has played for Spain 180 times, as the most-capped international for a European nation.

Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 37th minute with Jose Fonte adding a second three minutes into the second half.

READ ALSO: Solskjaer Defends Decision To Rest Ronaldo After Everton Slip


Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) scores a goal during the international friendly football match between Portugal and Qatar at the Algarve stadium in Loule, near Faro, southern Portugal, on October 9, 2021. CARLOS COSTA / AFP

 

RB Leipzig striker Andre Silva completed the scoring in the last minute of the game.

Portugal resume their World Cup qualifying campaign on Tuesday when they host Luxembourg.

They are currently second in Group A, a point behind Serbia but with a game in hand.

AFP

Ronaldo Says He Is ‘Not Closing The Count’ After Breaking Int’l Record

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (2ndR) celebrates with his teammates after scoring a goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 European qualifying round group A football match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at the Algarve stadium in Loule, near Faro, southern Portugal, on September 1, 2021. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

 

Cristiano Ronaldo signalled his intention to keep playing for Portugal for “years to come” after breaking the all-time international goalscoring record of 109 previously held by Iran’s Ali Daei.

The Manchester United forward scored twice in the dying minutes to move to 111 international goals as Portugal came from behind to beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 in World Cup qualifying on Wednesday.

Ronaldo, who is the all-time top goalscorer in the Champions League and the leading marksman in Real Madrid’s history, led his country to their only major tournament win at Euro 2016.

The 36-year-old spoke of his pride after his latest milestone.

“From all the records that I have broken during my career — and fortunately there have been a few — this one is very special for me and it’s certainly on the shelf of the achievements that make me truly proud,” Ronaldo said in a post on Instagram.

“Scoring 111 goals for Portugal means 111 moments like the ones we experienced today in Algarve, moments of worldwide union and happiness for millions and millions of Portuguese citizens all around the globe. For them, every sacrifice is worth it.”

Ronaldo will not add to his tally during the current international break, though, after leaving the Portugal squad on Thursday.

He is suspended for next week’s qualifier against Azerbaijan after being booked for removing his top while celebrating the winning goal against Ireland.

The Portuguese football federation said he had been “exempted” from playing in this weekend’s friendly with World Cup hosts Qatar.

READ ALSO: Ronaldo Breaks All-Time International Scoring Record With 111th Portugal Goal

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo reacts during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 European qualifying round group A football match between Portugal and Republic of Ireland at the Algarve stadium in Loule, near Faro, southern Portugal, on September 1, 2021. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

 

Ronaldo became the first player to feature in five European Championships at this year’s Euro 2020, winning the Golden Boot.

And he could equal the record of playing at five World Cups should Portugal make it to Qatar next year.

The five-time Ballon d’Or winner, who secured a return to United from Juventus this week, hinted he has no intention of retiring from international football in the near future.

“Thank you Portugal. Thanks to all my teammates and opponents for making this journey so unforgettable,” he added. “Let’s keep meeting inside the pitch in the years to come! I’m not closing the count just yet.”

Portugal face Qatar in a friendly on Saturday before travelling to Azerbaijan on September 7.

Thanks to Ronaldo’s rescue act in the Algarve, Fernando Santos’s men top Group A of European qualifying, three points clear of Serbia, who have a game in hand.

AFP

Portugal Battles Wildfire As Heatwave Persists

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 21, 2019 firefighters monitor the progression of a wildfire at Amendoa in Macao, central Portugal. Rising global temperature, rising sea levels, intensification of extreme events.
PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP

 

Hundreds of Portuguese firefighters on Tuesday struggled to control a blistering blaze that broke out in southern Portugal the day before, forcing the evacuation of around 60 people. 

Portugal is the latest European nation to face extreme weather and fierce fires, which climate scientists warn will become increasingly common due to man-made global warming.

Firefighters managed to control the wildfire that broke out early Monday morning near the Spanish border in the touristic region of Algarve, but the blaze picked up again in the afternoon, spreading across around 3,000 hectares.

“The fire is progressing with intensity,” a local official of the national authority for civil protection told AFP.

One firefighter was sent to hospital after being burned and two others were treated after inhaling smoke, a spokesperson for civil protection told AFP.

An agricultural building perched on a hill surrounded by orchards was engulfed by the flames, according to local reports.

As the flames spread through pine forests towards the coast, authorities closed the motorway that crosses Algarve, which remained cut off on Tuesday.

Faced with scorching temperatures, the government decided on Monday to extend the fire alert in place since Friday by 48 hours.

Spain, Italy, Greece, Algeria and Turkey have all experienced heatwaves and devastating wildfires this summer.

In 2017, fires killed dozens of people in Portugal.

Portugal Crash Out Of Euro 2020 After Defeat To Belgium


Belgium’s players celebrate their first goal during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville on June 27, 2021. THANASSIS STAVRAKIS / POOL / AFP

 

Portugal have crashed out of Euro 2020 following a 1-0 defeat to Belgium on Sunday evening, ending the defending champions’ hopes of another continental triumph.

Thorgan Hazard’s first-half goal gave Belgium a tense win over the holders to set up a quarter-final tie against Italy at Euro 2020.

Belgium held on despite losing skipper Kevin De Bruyne to injury in the second half and will face the Italians in Munich in the last eight on July 2.

Cristiano Ronaldo tested Thibaut Courtois with a dipping free-kick in the first half but the 36-year-old neither broke the international goals record nor added to his five for the tournament.

Raphael Guerreiro went closest to a late equaliser when his shot came back off the post but Belgium were the braver, more fluid team and deservedly edged through.

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (R) reacts as Belgium’s players celebrate their victory at the end of the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville on June 27, 2021. LLUIS GENE / POOL / AFP

 

They will now face Italy in Munich on Friday and possibly without Kevin De Bruyne, who hobbled off injured in the second half but returned to the pitch to join the celebrations at the end.

For all the superstar names on the pitch, it was Eden Hazard’s less heralded brother Thorgan who proved decisive, the Borussia Dortmund winger who Eden once said had even more talent than him.

Portugal, meanwhile, stuck to the defensive approach that served them so well in France five years ago but has perhaps been outgrown by a side that now boasts some of the most creative technicians in the world.

READ ALSORonaldo Equals World Record For Most International Goals 

De Bruyne injury worry 


Belgium’s defender Jan Vertonghen checks on Belgium’s midfielder Kevin De Bruyne reacting in pain during the UEFA EURO 2020 round of 16 football match between Belgium and Portugal at La Cartuja Stadium in Seville on June 27, 2021. LLUIS GENE / POOL / AFP

 

Eden Hazard started in Belgium’s front three again after playing 90 minutes against Finland on Monday. Portugal’s Diogo Dalot came in at right-back for the injured Nelson Semedo.

Eden Hazard skied an early shot over after a neat exchange with Romelu Lukaku while Diogo Jota skewed wide, slipped in down the left by the impressive Renato Sanches.

Ronaldo cut an isolated figure up front, his every touch booed early on by the Belgian fans, who then cheered when he was robbed of the ball before being bumped to the ground by Thomas Meunier.

The closest Ronaldo came to an all-time record 110th international goal was a dipping free-kick from 30 yards which Courtois parried away while at the other end, Lukaku was a more dynamic force.

One scintillating break saw Lukaku tear through Portugal’s midfield and with his shirt being pulled behind him, he was just lacking the final pass to Hazard.

An untidy game found its moment of clarity in the 42nd minute. It started with Courtois coolly evading Ronaldo’s press before more excellent work from Lukaku allowed De Bruyne to switch left to Thorgan Hazard.

Hazard cut in and ripped a swerving shot that rocketed towards the centre of the goal before swerving right and past Rui Patricio, who was too slow to adjust.

Belgium played with more verve after half-time and looked set to take charge.

But De Bruyne’s injury checked their rhythm and Portugal came again, Jota firing over and Joao Felix, on as a substitute, heading into the hands of Courtois.

Tempers flared as a crescendo of collisions incensed the crowd and left Pepe lucky only to be booked after he led into his challenge with his arm.

Portugal finally had to push and in a wild last 10 minutes, Guerreiro went closest to an equaliser, his shot hammering against the post. Belgium did just enough.

AFP