Portugal – North Macedonia: Macedonian Magic Runs Out (2-0)
After their shock success against Italy in one of the European playoff semifinals, North Macedonia had yet another massive hurdle to overcome if they were to realize their World Cup dream. Though North Macedonia put up a brave resistance initially, the hosts were able to comfortably prevail in the end.
Tactical analysis and match report by Neel Shelat.
Portugal survived a second-half scare to beat Turkey in their playoff semi-final, but played some very good football overall in that match, and would undoubtedly have fancied themselves to get the better of North Macedonia when they learnt of Italy’s defeat.
The hosts made three changes from their last match, all of which were in defense where João Cancelo and Pepe returned from suspension and Nuno Mendes came in at left back. Diogo Costa continued in goal whilst Danilo Pereira was once again deployed at center-back, so the midfield saw João Moutinho in between Bruno Fernandes and Bernardo Silva. Otávio and Diogo Jota were on either side of Cristiano Ronaldo in attack in their 4-3-3 formation.
North Macedonia made a couple of changes to the side that stunned Italy, but they preserved their defense which had Stole Dimitrievski in goal behind a back-four of Stefan Ristovski, Darko Velkovski, Visar Musliu and Ezgjan Alioski. Arijan Ademi joined Enis Bardhi in central midfield again with Eljif Elmas ahead of them, whilst Tihomir Kostadinov and Aleksandar Trajkovski were on either side of Milan Ristovski front in a 4-2-3-1 formation.
North Macedonia’s compact . . .