From the home of Mourinho, Ronaldo and Xavier
Portugal finally reached the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa after seeing off Bosnia-Herzegovina with a 2-0 aggregate success.
The Bosnians were looking to record what would have been an incredible win, and with that in mind their supporters welcomed the Portuguese in a way that is certainly reminiscent of an old Nike commercial.
The Portuguese national anthem was played under a chorus of jeers and every time a Portuguese player touched the ball, the whole stadium booed.
The home side already knew they would have to cope without three players who had picked up yellow cards in Lisbon, but they received more bad news on Tuesday when it was confirmed star midfielder Misimovic would miss the match through injury.
Still, buoyed by the fierce home support and the chance to claim a World Cup berth, Bosnia attempted to control the match in the first minutes.
After withstanding that initial pressure, Portugal proved to be the more organised side and didn’t allow Bosnia to create genuine opportunities at goal.
The match had two distinct halves: the first as a rather bland, poor affair.
Both teams appeared anxious and the dreadful pitch conditions didn’t help either as they favoured long aerial balls instead of the short possession play that suits the Portuguese team better.
The second half, though, saw the gulf in class between the two teams widen.
Portugal sent a first warning sign when Nani almost scored after evading a defender in the box, but they didn’t have to wait too long for the goal to arrive.
In the 56th minute after a quick break down the left, Nani held the ball up on the edge of the area and assisted Porto midfielder Raúl Meireles, who slotted the ball past the Bosnian goalkeeper.
The goal virtually sealed qualification as the Balkan side needed three goals, and the home side seemed to accept that fact as they stopped to look threatening.
Portugal created more opportunities to add extra gloss, but the scoreline wouldn’t change.
Man of the match: Bruno Alves
In a match where an early home goal could have dealt a huge blow to the Selecção, Alves was a brick wall that blocked everything.
He won almost every aerial challenge and injected confidence and steel to the backline. A vintage performance from the centre back.
Honourable mentions go to Raúl Meireles – who scored the goal and was involved in the major Portuguese opportunities – and Ricardo Carvalho, who partnered Alves and ensured Dzeko & co remain quiet.
Portugal did what they’re supposed to... just in a more dramatic fashion!
I have to say Bosnia were a disappointment. They had played well in Lisbon – some could even say Portugal got lucky that night – but failed to create any real danger in this match.
Sure, Misimovic was sorely missed, but having just three or four talented players is also not enough to make a good team.
Their defence is simply too error prone and on Wednesday their midfield was not up to the task.
Still, Bosnia-Herzegovina enjoyed an amazing run and can look forward to the next challenges with a grin on their faces.
As for Portugal, it is now time to celebrate. The victory masks the problems faced during qualification and all the headaches Carlos Queiroz is going to have in the future.
Though the Portuguese media will say otherwise, allow me to be the one to say it clearly: we are not World Cup contenders.
The Selecção is not a balanced squad and hasn’t played well for some time.
Nevertheless, it’s a great feeling to be in South Africa and until the draw on December 4 that’s all that matters.
Congratulations to Uruguay, Algeria, Slovenia, Greece and France (even though I feel sorry for the brave Irish).
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