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North Macedonia ready to make Ronaldo work for World Cup place

North Macedonia have already pulled off perhaps the most significant shock in World Cup qualifying history.

So they are entering Tuesday’s play-off against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal with no fear.

As Selecao talisman Ronaldo, now 37, is potentially bidding to play at his last World Cup.

Although he insists he will make that call – there is far more pressure on the hosts than North Macedonia.

Coach Blagoja Milevski explained:

“I don’t think anyone would ever have expected North Macedonia, as a national team, [would make it this far].

“Compared to the other participants in our group in this play-off, we are tiny, and that’s why nobody expected North Macedonia to be able to play in the final of this play-off and go to the World Cup.

“So, let’s not run away from this opportunity. We are in a good position, and I have only one message: to enjoy the moment and make the most of this opportunity to play against a great team.”

Milevski knows Portugal are still the favourite, but that does not concern him.

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North Macedonia ready to make Ronaldo work for World Cup place

“Of course, we know who the favourites are. According to everything that has happened, we know that Portugal is the favourite,” he said.

“But North Macedonia are not here by coincidence, we have our qualities, and these qualities put us in the group of the best 20 at the European level. And so I think we have to see what happens.”

Portugal required a play-off to qualify in both 2010 and 2014 – the latter seeing Ronaldo score all four goals of a 4-2 aggregate win over Sweden.

Those goals contribute to a world-record international tally of 115, but Milevski suggests North Macedonia cannot afford to focus on Ronaldo alone.

“Regarding Cristiano Ronaldo, I think we are talking about someone who has been the best player in the world for several years,” the coach said.

“But we will not just play against him. Ten other players play with him. So Portugal is not just Ronaldo.

“Although he is sensational, there are other extraordinary players.

“And therefore, we will focus on the team as a whole and not just on an individual.”

Likewise, for more football news like this, click here.

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North Macedonia ready to make Ronaldo work for World Cup place

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