- Serbia stunned Portugal with a last-gasp winner to qualify for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar
- Portugal only needed to draw in their final qualifier match but Serbia striker Aleksandar Mitrovic’s 90th-minute header condemned Fernando Santos’s side to defeat
- Cristiano Ronaldo’s nation will now have to wait until March 2022 to feature in a two-game playoff to know whether they will qualify for the spectacle
Portugal’s World Cup ambitions were dealt a blow on Sunday, November 15 after a last-minute winner by Serbia plunged Cristiano Ronaldo’s nation into the playoffs.
The hosts went into the game knowing a draw would be enough to send them to the World Cup finals as they had a far superior goal difference to Serbia going into the decider.
And Portugal got off to the best possible start to the clash as Renato Sanches put his side into the lead as early as the second minute.
Ajax playmaker Dusan Tadic however levelled matters before halftime with a shot that just crept past the goal line and that is how the game remained until the closing stages.
Cristiano, who has been infamous for late goals for his Manchester United side in club competition, was fairly quiet, with his best effort being a free kick in the first half.
As the game was meandering towards a draw, Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic rose highest to stun the host with a 90th-minute header to secure a stunning 2-1 victory for Serbia in Lisbon.
Portugal’s defeat, which ended a long-standing unbeaten run at home in World Cup qualifiers (since 2013), means the nation will have to wait until March 2022 to take part in a two-game play-off to determine whether they will be in the next World Cup.
For Serbia, the win guarantees them a place in next year’s spectacle as they went top of Group A with 20 points, three ahead of Portugal.
“We will qualify”
Speaking after the shock defeat, Portugal boss Fernando Santos insisted his side would still qualify for the World Cup, despite being thrust into the playoffs.
“We'll be in Qatar. We know we didn't do what we should, but we'll be there,” Santos said as quoted by GOAL.
“We've always played to win and think about the offensive moment. But it doesn't always turn out as we want. And it's my responsibility."
GHC 7 billion incentive
Prior to the clash, Serbia players were offered a tasty incentive to beat Portugal in the decider.
Reports claimed the Eastern European side has now been offered a staggering GHC 7 billion by their government if they somehow managed to beat Portugal.
The Serbian FA managed to broker a deal with the country’s government to offer the players the incentive.
Source: Sports Brief News