Before the match between Portugal and North Macedonia, as usual, everything revolved around Cristiano Ronaldo . The 37-year-old striker issued quotes in the spirit of cheap personal training: “There is no World Cup without our team,” and also shared plans for the future. For example, he said that he intends to play as long as he enjoys the process and benefits the team, and he does this in Manchester United and the national team.

The question is actually debatable. But this is the paradox of late Ronaldo, who can explode with a hat-trick for Tottenham, and three days later never touch the ball in someone else's penalty area against Atlético. Well, and pressure, where would we be without it ... In the national team, by the way, the situation is similar. In the course of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, Cristiano set a new record for the number of goals for the national team, but at the same time, the decisive meetings with Ireland (0:0) and Serbia (1:2) did not work out at all.

In the semi-finals of the joints with Turkey, Ronaldo took part in the first two scoring attacks, albeit at an early stage, but overall he did not shine. Others did the result - Bernando Silva (definitely the best Portuguese football player this season), Otavio and Diogo Jota.

Against the Macedonians, Cristiano first missed a good moment, then cut himself off and ran back to work out, but did not do it to the end, and as a result, the guests brought the matter to a blow, and at the end of the half he gave an assist to Bruno Fernandes . And that was the goal pass that should be included in the statistics - at the right moment, he rolled the ball under impact perfectly.

After that, everything became more or less clear. Even though the Balkans took two corners in the first half, they did not create anything worthwhile in the attack. There is almost always a chance for a lucky punch that took place with Italy, but this, of course, will not happen in every match. Portugal did not say that they were strangling the opponent, but at the right moment, unlike the Squadra Azzurra, they gave specifics. And then she got the job done. Cristiano will go to his fifth World Cup.

The main character is Krychowiak
The head coach of the Russian national team Valery Karpin said that from the play-offs he was interested in the game of Poland, they say, he was curious how she would act and whether he and his assistants dismantled the opponent in the right direction. It really was a puzzle, since Cheslav Mikhnevich led the team only in January. The coach used a 3-4-2-1 formation with Piotr Zieliński and Seba Szymański as attacking midfielders. It is difficult to say anything else about Polish football, because it was absent.

Well, that is, the home team fought, fought, but the creativity tended to zero. Sweden definitely looked better in the first half, for sure. The Scandinavians attacked, had more possession of the ball and shot on goal, creating some chances, but Wojciech Szczesny turned out to be as reliable as possible.

It certainly wasn't an Italy versus Macedonia scenario, the difference in class between the rivals is not that great, if there is one at all. But, looking at the Chorzow match (where the lights went out in the stadium in the first half), it became clear why Sweden reached the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the 1/8 finals of the 2020 EURO, and Poland did not get out of the group in both tournaments.

And this joint is a clear example of how much one or two episodes decide in football, even in seemingly one-sided meetings. At the beginning of the second half, substitute Grzegorz Krychowiak set himself up perfectly in someone else's penalty area - and Robert Lewandowski scored from the penalty spot. The goal breathed strength into the Poles - first to fight-fight-crawl even more fiercely, and then to run away to the counterattack.

And don't pay attention to xG or strike statistics - Poland, which caught their courage, was filling them already at 2:0, when the guests turned sour. Not even saved by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who came out for the last 10 minutes. World Cup 2022 will be held without him.

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