Portugal do not need stellar Ronaldo to make it to Russia

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Portugal are in the World Cup. AFP

Portugal do not need stellar Ronaldo to make it to Russia

Patrick Power by Patrick Power @rfutbol - 2 +12k

Having depended on Cristiano Ronaldo throughout their entire qualifying campaign, in the final fixture, the one that mattered most, Portugal ran out 2-0 winners with little contribution from their captain.

Group B had long since become a two-horse race and both Portugal and Switzerland were relishing the chance of a showdown to secure automatic qualification and avoid risking their World Cup chances in the play-offs.

Portugal were required to clinch all three points in order to top the group and thus were visibly more eager to push forward from the start, albeit with more excitement than precision. The visitors, having not dropped a single point in qualifying, were happy to sit back and deal with Portugal's attacks.

Cristiano Ronaldo was back in the starting lineup for Fernando Santos after coming off the bench against Andorra to open the scoring for his team, and he was rewarded with a huge cheer from the stands every time he touched the ball, contrasting with the chorus of whistles meeting every Swiss pass.

With Portugal on the front foot, Switzerland understandably employed some more conservative tactics. Six consecutive clean sheets before meeting Hungary had endowed them with the defensive confidence to travel to the Estadio da Luz and try to keep the likes of Ronaldo and Bernardo Silva at bay, and it seemed to be working for much of the first period.

The crowd was beginning to grow frustrated before the ball was worked out to the Silva inside the box and the Manchester City winger went for power, finding an equally strong hand from Sommer to clear the ball for a corner.

As the minutes went by, the home players became increasingly nervy, which translated to inaccuracies when it mattered most in the final third. However, as Portugal insistently knocked at the door, it was an error in the Swiss back line which finally broke the deadlock.

Eliseu whipped in a tantalising cross from the left and the keeper came out to meet it. With Joao Mario applying pressure, Sommer could only palm the ball into the backtracking Djourou, who sent the ball rolling into his own net.

The stroke of good fortune allowed Portugal to comfortably come out on the front foot after the break, in search of the goal to put some daylight between the two sides. However, the rare occasions in which the away team broke forward did spark fear in the hosts, who trembled at the thought of the goal to deny them an automatic spot in Russia.

The worries were allayed just before the hour mark when Andre Silva squeezed in the all-important second. A good team move from Portugal found Bernardo Silva inside the box and the winger somehow managed to square the ball in between a sea of legs for the AC milan striker to finish home from a tight angle.

It was not to be Cristiano Ronaldo's night in front of his beloved Portuguese fans. With Switzerland defeated, he was released in behind the defence and, with only Sommer to beat, the keeper stole the ball from under his feet as the Real Madrid man tried to round him.

The visitors barely put up a fight in the second half of disappointing performance, but they will have a second bite in the November play-offs. Portugal secure their place in the World Cup, while also proving they do not depend on inspiration from the captain to see out important games.

Patrick Power

Patrick Power

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