North Macedonia game is a matter of life and death – Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo says Portugal’s World Cup play-off final with North Macedonia is a “matter of life and death”.

North Macedonia, ranked 67th in the world, go to Porto looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time, having stunned Italy 1-0 in the semis.

This is likely to be Manchester United forward Ronaldo’s last shot at a World Cup unless he plays on until he’s 41.

“I urge the fans – I want hell breaking loose at Dragao [Stadium],” said the captain, 37, of Tuesday’s game.

Portugal, who beat Turkey 3-1 in the semi-finals, last failed to reach a World Cup in 1998.

Ronaldo added: “I went to bed last night thinking that I want the stadium to shut down the music for our national anthem and let the fans sing it acapella to show our passion, our strength and union around the objective of reaching the World Cup.

“For us, this game is a matter of life and death. There is a responsibility to win this game. For us, also a game of our lives. They have surprised [opponents] in many games but I believe they will not surprise us.”

Ronaldo is the all-time top scorer in men’s international football with 115 goals, including seven across four World Cups.

He led his country to glory in Euro 2016, but this is likely to be his final chance to win a World Cup.

“The one who will decide my future is me,” said Ronaldo. “If I want to play more, I play. If I don’t want to, I don’t play.”

Portugal coach Fernando Santos has hinted he will quit if they lose.

“If we think that, theoretically, the Macedonians are weaker, we are on the wrong track, it’s the worst possible scenario,” he said.

“We have to face North Macedonia as we would have faced Italy.”

North Macedonia have enjoyed an amazing year, having beaten Germany 2-1 in World Cup qualifying in March 2021, before playing at Euro 2020 – their first major tournament.

Blagoja Milevski, who replaced Igor Angelovski after Euro 2020, has only lost one of his eight games in charge.

Aleksandar Trajkovski’s injury-time strike from outside the box helped them beat European champions Italy 1-0 in a stunning semi-final upset in Palermo.

“We won against one of the best teams in the world,” said Milevski. “And we won’t stop here. We have one last step to get to the World Cup.

“So, we are well on our way to confirming why we are among the top 20 teams in Europe.”

Napoli midfielder Elif Elmas said: “This will be one of our most difficult matches, but also certainly the most exciting for all of us.

“We are 90 minutes away from the World Cup and fulfilling our childhood dreams – not only ours, but the whole of North Macedonia. We must not miss our chance and we have to give everything on the pitch to succeed.”

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Herman Nnyanzi 'The Analyst' is a Ugandan multimedia sports journalist who started his career in 2017. He has a genuine strong love for sports and expertise, especially football. Contact me on +256704472629 or +256786403603

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