Seven more teams make the field for the World Cup in Qatar


By ANNE M. PETERSON - AP Sports Writer



Fans hold up balloons for Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo on the stands before the start of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Fans hold up balloons for Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo on the stands before the start of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)


Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo smiles at the end of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Portugal won 2-0. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)


Poland's Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Poland and Sweden at Silesian Stadium, in Chorzow, southern Poland, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)


Cristiano Ronaldo will get another shot at lifting the World Cup.

The leading men’s international scorer can play in his fifth World Cup after Portugal defeated North Macedonia 2-0 in a European playoff, one of seven spots in soccer’s premier tournament decided on Tuesday.

Thirty-two teams, including the hosts, will play in Qatar starting Nov. 21. As of Tuesday, 27 teams had qualified with two additional spots to be determined on Wednesday. Two intercontinental playoffs will be held in June along with two games to determine the final European berth.

Portugal’s win finalized the eight seeds for Friday’s draw: host Qatar along with Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, England, France, Portugal and Spain.

Pot two will include Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland and Uruguay, and if they qualify Wednesday, Mexico and the United States.

All eyes were on North Macedonia, vying for its first World Cup berth after it surprisingly eliminated Italy with a 1-0 victory last week. But it wasn’t meant to be for the small country that gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991. It will be Portugal’s eighth World Cup and sixth in a row.

The coveted World Cup trophy is the one prize that has eluded Ronaldo, a five-time Ballon d’Or winner. While the 37-year old is likely a lock for his team in Qatar, fellow international star Mohammed Salah will miss out after Egypt fell to Senegal on Tuesday.

Senegal advanced on a penalty shootout for one of Africa’s five berths. Salah’s Liverpool teammate Sadio Mané struck the winning penalty after the teams drew 1-1 on aggregate, sending Senegal to its third World Cup. Mané also had the shootout winner against Egypt in the African Cup of Nations final on Feb. 6.

Ghana qualified after a 1-1 draw with Nigeria behind Thomas Partey’s 10th-minute goal to advance on away goals. The Black Stars, who eliminated the U.S. in 2006 and ‘10, will be making their fourth World Cup appearance.

Algeria won its first leg, vying to qualify after missing out on the 2018 World Cup, but Cameroon came back with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday on Karl Toko Ekambi’s goal in the fourth minute of the second extra time period to advance on away goals. Morocco downed the Democratic Republic of Congo 4-1 to secure its spot 5-2 on aggregate. Tunisia played to a scoreless draw with Mali and qualified with a 1-0 aggregate victory.

Robert Lewandowski converted a penalty in the 50th minute and Poland secured its second-straight World Cup berth with a 2-1 victory over Sweden in another European playoff. It was Lewandowski’s 75th international goal in 129 appearances.

Canada has already clinched a spot in North and Central America and the Caribbean, its first World Cup appearance in 36 years. The United States and Mexico have all but secured berths with the final round of matches set for Wednesday. The U.S. men, who missed out on the 2018 World Cup, visit Costa Rica, while Mexico will host El Salvador.

Costa Rica is currently sitting in fourth place with a chance to go to an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Wednesday’s Oceania match between New Zealand and the Solomon Islands.

The European teams that have qualified include Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Netherlands, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Poland and Portugal.

Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Uruguay have qualified in South America, and the fifth-place team will compete for a berth against the winner of Asia’s fifth-place playoff between Australia and the United Arab Emirates on June 7.

The Asian region teams that qualified are Iran, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

Ukraine originally scheduled was to play Scotland in a European playoff, but the match was postponed until June because of Russia’s invasion. The winner plays at Wales for Europe’s final spot.

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Fans hold up balloons for Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo on the stands before the start of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/03/web1_128492088-d34c506ba3434a6e9f41d70425703fd2.jpgFans hold up balloons for Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo on the stands before the start of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo smiles at the end of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Portugal won 2-0. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/03/web1_128492088-3f78e4e997bb406990aa3274c9cc0eab.jpgPortugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo smiles at the end of the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Portugal and North Macedonia, at the Dragao stadium in Porto, Portugal, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. Portugal won 2-0. (AP Photo/Luis Vieira)

Poland’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Poland and Sweden at Silesian Stadium, in Chorzow, southern Poland, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)
https://www.wnewsj.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/22/2022/03/web1_128492088-1081996ebed14bdc86add093ea76d280.jpgPoland’s Robert Lewandowski celebrates after scoring the opening goal of his team during the World Cup 2022 playoff soccer match between Poland and Sweden at Silesian Stadium, in Chorzow, southern Poland, Tuesday, March 29, 2022. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski)

By ANNE M. PETERSON

AP Sports Writer