Serbia visited Portugal to play their last Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification match and the team stunned the home team with a 1-2 defeat that has condemned Cristiano Ronaldo to hope on play-offs victory.
Ahead of the FIFA World Cup qualification match on Sunday, November 14, Portugal were looking like favorites to make it out of Group A. They were topping the group with equal points as Serbia but had superior goals difference.
Hence, all Portugal needed to do was to beat Serbia with any goal margin or draw with them which could have still kept Portugal top of Group A on superior goals difference.
But Serbia which played better than the home team during the game were more determined to get the automatic ticket to Qatar.
However, Portugal had a perfect start to the game when Renato Sanches scored a 2nd-minute opener. But Serbia got back into the game in the 33rd minute, thanks to Dusan Tadic’s strike.
Afterward, Portugal could not break the deadlock which was still a favorable result for them. However, their joy was cut short in the 90th minute when Serbia’s Predrag Rajkovic scored a late-minute winner.
The 2-1 win over Portugal, took Serbia to the top of Group A with 20 points in 8 games, three points above second-placed Portugal. This means that Serbia have automatically qualified for Qatar 2022 World Cup while Portugal have been confined to play-offs.
“We have to take responsibility because we had a poor game,” Portugal midfielder Joao Palhinha told Portugal’s RTP television after the 2-1 defeat. “We just defended in the second half. Credit to Serbia, they played very well but we could be on top.
“Everyone in the dressing room is disappointed but we have to look ahead to the playoffs now because we are more than good enough to be in the World Cup.
“You can’t win all the time. Difficulties are part of life and this feeling should give us more strength.”
While Serbia’s Mitrovic told Serbia’s Nova television that: “We came here to play football and having been the better side, we earned it all.
“We are reaping the rewards of hard work and the belief that we would be able to defy the odds and beat Portugal. We are overjoyed, for our country and the people first and foremost…
“We deserved to win tonight as the lads showed so much character. This is a massive accomplishment for Serbian football.
“The team showed maturity and composure under the most intense pressure and I would have said the same thing if it had stayed 1-1 and we got confined to the playoffs.”
Now that Serbia have won Group A, how can Portugal qualify for Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup
Portugal have never failed to qualify for FIFA World Cup since 1998 but this time around, it is beginning to look difficult. They lost the opportunity of winning an automatic ticket when they came against Serbia on Sunday, hence, they will have to rely on playoffs to get to Qatar.
Portugal will be among the 12 European countries that will be confined to playoffs. Ten of the 12 countries finished second in the 10 European World Cup qualification groups. While the remaining two countries are from the UEFA Nations League standings.
The 12 countries will be separated into three groups of four teams. Each group has one World Cup ticket attached to it, which means that the winner of each playoff group will automatically qualify for the Qatar 2022 World Cup.
Before that can happen, a team like Portugal would have to play a single-elimination semifinal (March 24-25), followed by a single-elimination playoff final (March 28-29). If they win the two games, Cristiano Ronaldo would have the opportunity of making his 5th FIFA World Cup appearance which could also be the last of his career.