Portugal booked themselves a place in the European play-offs for next year's
World Cup after an easy Group One victory over Malta.
Considering Malta had taken just one point from nine previous matches in the
qualifying campaign, it was the expected outcome, and now Portugal must look to
maintain their momentum going into next month's double-header against another
The Portuguese have recovered well after a dismal first half of their bid to
reach South Africa, and will surely now fancy their chances of reaching the
finals, given they will be among the seeded teams in next Monday's draw.
Goals from Nani, Simao Sabrosa, Miguel Veloso and Edinho made it a comfortable
evening for Carlos Queiroz's side in Guimaraes. Manchester United midfielder Nani calmed any Portuguese nerves by scoring after
Veloso played the ball in from the left and Nani, just outside the 18-yard box,
was quick to get his left-footed shot away, finding the bottom right corner.
Portugal were dominant and a second goal looked set to follow quickly, however
it did not arrive until a minute before half-time when key man Simao, fresh from
his starring role in the weekend win against Hungary, rammed home another shot
from outside the penalty area.
Malta's only threat came in the 63rd minute, however Jamie Pace made a mess of
his shot which almost hit the corner flag.
Portugal's third goal was a crisp finish from Veloso, as the left-back finished
like a striker from around 12 yards after Liedson could not convert Nani's
Coach Queiroz responded to the home crowd's cheers for Guimaraes midfielder
Nuno Assis by bringing him off the bench for the final half-hour, in place of
Portugal did not need to push for further goals, knowing a victory was enough
to secure second place in the group ahead of Sweden. However they still managed to find a fourth, as Edinho scored following a pass from Simao.
"I'm very satisfied as winning this match means going forward in this marathon, in a group that in the end was one of the tightest in the fight for the top two places," Queiroz said. "I think it's fair to say that it will probably be the unseeded teams that are right now more worried."