FIFA WC Qualifiers: Ronaldo and co eye a play-off final berth as Turkey stand in their way
The second international break of 2022 will have a colossal battle in the hands as Euro 2016 champions Portugal take on Turkey in a crunch semi-final playoff game on the 24th of March 2022.
While Turkey finished runners-up to the Netherlands, it was a heartbreaking scenario for Portugal as they lost in the final minute of their final group stage game against Serbia, as they were ultimately condemned to second spot.
The prospect will only get interesting as the winner of this bout will face the winner of another play-off semi-final between Italy and North Macedonia.
Portugal vs Turkey: Head to Head Record
The two teams have met on eight occasions on the international stage, with Turkey winning the latest battle between the two in June 2012.
However, the affair was only international friendly prior to Euro 2012. The Red-army of Turkey hasn't beaten Fernando Santos' side in any of the five competitive meetings, with Pepe and Raul Meireles inspiring the former European champions to a 2-0 win in group stages of Euro 2008.
Despite, much of his stardom, Cristiano Ronaldo hasn't scored against the Turks and will be poised to add to his tally when he takes guard on Thursday evening. Overall Portugal lead by 6-2 in terms of wins, with both Turkish wins coming in friendly encounters.
Portugal vs Turkey: Key battles
While Manchester United continue to struggle at club level, Ronaldo is far from the situation as he has so far amassed six goals for Portugal in qualifiers and scored 12 in the Premier League including a hat-trick against Spurs last week.
His opposition number Burak Yilmaz was in superb form last year as led Lille to Ligue 1 title success, but like United, he has also gone under the radar managing just four goals and three assists at club level. Matter of fact he has scored more goals (5) in the qualifiers than he has in Ligue 1 this season.
Two players who catch the eye in the midfield are Bruno Fernandes and Hakan Calhanoglu for their respective sides. While Fernandes has scored more goals (9) than Calhanoglu (6) at club level, it is the assists that see the Inter Milan star better his rival. While Calhanoglu has eight assists, Fernandes has six at club level. Both Calhanoglu and Fernandes will have a task in their hands if they are to steer their team towards Qatar.
So far in the qualifiers
Both teams lost only one game in the group stages. Fernando Santos's side missed the services of veteran center-back Pepe in their last qualifier after he was suspended for picking up a red card against the Republic of Ireland. In eight group stage matches, Portugal won five along with two draws and a loss, while Turkey won six matches and drew three alongside their 6-1 humiliation from group winners the Netherlands.
As a higher seed in the draw, Portugal will have the home advantage on their side for this game.