PORTO: Portugal’s World Cup play-off against North Macedonia on Tuesday is a “matter of life and death”, said Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of the game.
Manchester United star Ronaldo is hoping to qualify for a fifth World Cup with Portugal and secure another chance to lift the trophy for the first time at the age of 37.
The winners of the match in Porto will book a spot at this year’s finals in Qatar.
“The team is quite confident, I feel all the players are ready,” Ronaldo told a press conference on Monday.
“For us, this game is a matter of life and death, we are aware of its importance and I take this opportunity to appeal to the supporters to give us incredible support tomorrow.”
Portugal would have likely been expecting to face Italy in the play-off final, but the European champions slumped to a shock 1-0 home defeat by North Macedonia last week.
The Macedonians also claimed a surprise away victory over Germany earlier in the qualifying campaign.
“We’re playing North Macedonia and of course people think it’s going to be an easier opponent,” admitted Ronaldo.
“From my point of view it’s going to be an extremely tough game because if the Macedonians are here it’s because they deserve to be.
“North Macedonia are a very organised team, but if Portugal are at their best, they beat any team in the world.”
Ronaldo, the all-time record goalscorer in international football, will be 41 by the time of the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
But the Portugal captain would not say if Qatar would be his last opportunity to play at football’s showpiece event.
“The one who will decide my future is me,” he said.
“If I want to play more, I play, if I don’t want to, I don’t play. Period.”
Portugal coach Fernando Santos has previously hinted that he will step down from the role if his team fail to qualify for the first time since 1998.
“If we think that, theoretically, the Macedonians are weaker, we are on the wrong track, it’s the worst possible scenario,” said the 67-year-old, who has been Portugal boss since 2014 and led them to Euro 2016 glory.
“We have to face North Macedonia as we would have faced Italy.”