LUXEMBOURG: Cristiano Ronaldo took his career tally to 99 international goals on Sunday as Portugal qualified for the 2020 European Championship with a 2-0 win against Luxembourg.
The Juventus star tapped in a shot by teammate Diogo Jota that was just inches from going over the goal line in the 86th minute, leaving Ronaldo one strike from the 100-goal mark.
Bruno Fernandes got Portugal’s first goal against the flow of play in the 39th when he scored from a long pass by Bruno Silva.
Luxembourg had outplayed Portugal until that point, dealing with the poor field conditions better than the defending European champions.
Portugal advanced to Euro 2020 in second place in Group B. Ukraine had already gone through as the group winner.
Separately, World Cup runners-up Croatia rounded off a rebuilding mission by booking their place at the tournament with a 3-1 win over Slovakia but they are unlikely to sneak under the radar again at next year’s finals.
Croatia secured top spot in Group E, a section also including Hungary, Wales and Azerbaijan, with five wins and two draws from their eight qualifiers.
Coach Zlatko Dalic, who masterminded the run to last year’s World Cup final, has gradually reconstructed a squad that lost Mario Mandzukic, Danijel Subasic and Vedran Corluka to retirement in the wake of the 4-2 loss to France in Russia.
The “Vatreni” — Croatian for “Fiery Ones” — needed only a point in Rijeka on Saturday to ensure a spot at the 24-team event, which kicks off in Rome on June 12.
After a shocking start for home fans when Robert Bozenik scored in the 32th minute, Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller in the second half.
Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.
“I’m relieved ... proud and happy,” Dalic said after the match.
“These boys deserved the European Championship. This is the crowning moment for all that we have done in this year and a half since the World Cup.”
But the path through qualifying, preceded by a poor showing in the Nations League, where Croatia finished last in their group behind Spain and England, was far from plain sailing.