Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after losing to Serbia. (AFP)
Serbia, Spain qualify for the World Cup, Portugal stunned
Released: Tue 16 Nov 2021, 12:49 am
Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of playing in a record-breaking fifth World Cup are pending after Serbia stunned Portugal 2-1 in Lisbon to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Spain and Croatia secured their places in Qatar on Sunday thanks to 1-0 wins against Sweden and Russia.
Ronaldo already holds the record of five European Championship games and looked well on course for another milestone when Portugal stormed out of the blocks through Renato Sanches after just two minutes to score the goal.
Serbia bounced back to dominate the rest of the first half, however, and deservedly equalized when Dusan Tadic hit the post after a Dusan Vlahovic goal.
Ronaldo fell silent as another chance to score his 800th career goal came and went.
Instead, it was Aleksandar Mitrovic who scored the decisive goal as stoppage time approached.
A little over a year ago, Mitrovic was his country’s villain as he was the only player to fail in the penalty shoot-out against Scotland, where Serbia missed Euro 2020.
However, the Fulham forward made dramatic amends when he took Tadic’s header off the back post.
“It was a great game,” said Mitrovic. “We were the better team in every way today.”
Portugal will now have to tackle two tricky playoff games in March to hold their qualifying record for every major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
“We have to apologize to the Portuguese but my team will be at the World Cup, that’s guaranteed,” said Portugal’s defiant coach Fernando Santos. “We have to prepare well to beat our opponent in March and come to Qatar. But I always trust my players. “
Spain prevented the playoffs when Alvaro Morata put an end to the Swedes’ resistance in Seville four minutes from time.
Sweden’s shocking 2-0 defeat by Kazakhstan on Thursday had given Spain pole position in Group B, which meant La Roja only needed one point to qualify.
Luis Enrique’s team was grateful for this delay, as a repetition of the stalemate between the teams in the clash in the group stage of the Euro 2020 was foreseeable for a long time.
Morata was the fall man that night for missing many chances, but he made off the bench with a calm finish after Robin Olsen twisted Dani Olmo’s fiery shot on the crossbar.
Croatia also needed a late winner, as Fedor Kudryashov grabbed Russia’s qualification with an own goal in the boggy battle in Split.
As a finalist at the last World Cup in 2018, Croatia looked like it made the playoffs as it battled a determined Russian defense on a wet pitch. But Kudryashov’s mistake brought the guests away from the top spot eight minutes before the end. “It was a difficult game from the start because of the rain. We never gave up, we were patient, ”said Croatian captain Luka Modric.
Germany had long since booked their spot in Qatar but ended their qualification with a 4-1 win over Armenia when Ilkay Gündogan scored two goals.
North Macedonia secured the playoff spot behind the four-time world champions with a 3-1 win over Iceland.