Portugal are set to take on Turkey in a Path C semi-final clash of the European play-offs for the 2022 FIFA World Cup at Estadio do Dragao in Porto on Thursday. Fernando Santos’ men finished second to Serbia in Group A of the qualifiers. In contrast, Turkey finished runners-up to the Netherlands in Group G. As a result, they now have to negotiate a tricky play-off path.
Portugal fans cannot forget the name Aleksandar Mitrovic quickly enough, as with the Euro 2016 champions and Serbia level pegging at 1-1 in their final group encounter, the Fulham forward dramatically headed home in the 90th minute to send his side into the finals.
A goalless stalemate with the Republic of Ireland three days before that 2-1 defeat also proved costly in Portugal’s bid to secure a simple route to Qatar, with Santos’s side now at a real risk of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1998.
A potential meeting with Italy in the play-off final could follow for Portugal – assuming that the European champions can navigate their way past North Macedonia in the other Path C semi-final – meaning that at least one of the two European heavyweights will be watching on from home later this year.
A record of 17 points and a +11 goal difference means that Portugal boast the best group record out of any UEFA nation in the play-offs, but defeat to Serbia at the Estadio da Luz marked their first home loss in World Cup Qualifying since 2008.
However, Santos’s side had won 10 on the bounce at home in qualification before Mitrovic, and Dusan Tadic put them to the sword in November, although their upcoming opponents have enjoyed quite the revival since their Euro 2020 capitulation.
With Ruben Dias injured and Joao Cancelo suspended, Portugal’s backline has been further depleted by Pepe testing positive for COVID-19.
Santos will also miss midfielder Ruben Neves and goalkeeper Anthony Lopes due to injuries. Renato Sanches is also injured, though a suspension would have kept him out anyway.
Turkey defender Mert Muldur is set to return after serving his ban. Veteran striker Burak Yilmaz has been consistent but expects Stefan Kuntz to explore his options in attack.
In eight head-to-head encounters between the two sides, Portugal hold the clear advantage, having won six games and lost two.
The two countries last faced each other way back in 2012, with Turkey beating Portugal 3-1. A brace from striker Umut Bolut and an own goal from centre-back Pepe ensured victory for Turkey. Winger Nani scored the consolation goal for Portugal.
Portugal form guide: L-D-W-W-W
Turkey form guide: W-W-W-D-L
Portugal vs Turkey Predicted XI
Portugal Predicted XI (4-3-3): Rui Patricio, Diogo Dalot, Goncalo Inacio, Jose Fonte, Raphael Guerreiro, Joao Moutinho, Matheus Nunes, Danilo Pereira, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Goncalo Guedes
Turkey Predicted XI (4-4-2): Ugurcan Cakir, Zeki Celik, Merih Demiral, Caglar Soyuncu, Ridvan Yilmaz, Abdulkadir Omur, Hakan Calhanoglu, Dorukhan Tokoz, Muhammed Kerem Akturkoglu, Burak Yilmaz, Cengiz Under