A second-half strike by Raul Meireles was enough to break Bosnian hearts and send 2006 semi-finalists Portugal through to the FIFA World Cup™ finals on Wednesday.

Portugal, once again without the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, had won a hard-fought first leg 1-0 courtesy of a close-range header by Bruno Alves on Saturday. Only the woodwork denied Bosnia-Herzegovina a goal in Lisbon but this was a more comfortable victory for the visitors, with Meireles' effort ensuring their fifth finals appearance at next year's showpiece in South Africa.

Despite enjoying the lion's share of possession in the opening period on a heavy pitch, Miroslav Blazevic's hosts failed to carve out any clear chances as Portugal sat back hoping to catch their hosts on the counter in their European zone play-off second leg.

Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, whose team limped through the first half of their qualifying programme prior to a late rally, had insisted his team plays better away than at home.

And ten minutes after the restart Meireles ensured there would be no shredded nerves for the visitors as he took a pass from Manchester United winger Nani and slipped a low, precise shot past Kenan Hasagic in the Bosnian goal.

"These marathons are only over after the final whistle and I want to thank my players for showing such spirit," said a relieved Queiroz afterwards. Goalscorer Meireles saluted the team's attitude, saying: "Our play and our attitude were the most important things out there. The pitch was cutting up badly and it was not always possible to play well - but we won, we are through and we are happy. We always believed in ourselves."

Bosnia-Herzegovina danger man Edin Dzeko, whose goals had been instrumental in taking his country this far, was getting little change out of the Portugal defence and was chiefly in evidence following the goal for getting himself booked. Minutes earlier Nani himself had come close to breaking the deadlock in Zenica but Hasagic blocked well with his legs.

Second-half substitute Zlatan Muslimovic tried valiantly to rouse the Bosnians, who enjoyed a late run to land runners-up spot in Spain's group, edging out Turkey and Belgium, but his probing runs produced no end product.

Portugal sent Edinho on for Nani with 18 minutes remaining after Meireles had sent an effort skidding just wide. At the other end Vedad Ibisevic appealed in vain for a penalty after tangling with Paulo Ferreira.

After 77 minutes the hosts found themselves down to ten men as midfielder Sejad Salihovic was dismissed for a second bookable offence. The red card brought fury on the terraces and the match briefly came to a halt with one of the referee Roberto Rosetti's assistants appearing to have been struck by an object thrown from the crowd.

Veteran coach Blazevic, who memorably led neighbouring Croatia to third place at France 98, urged his men on for a final push, Miralem Pjanic scuffing a final chance, but the Portuguese, who introduced Deco for Simao for the closing stages, were comfortable winners.