Cristiano Ronaldo would have been hoping to play in a record-equalling world cup, but now it hangs in the balance as Serbia beat them 2-1 in Lisbon to qualify for the 2022 World Cup. The Manchester United star already holds the record of playing in five European Championships and looked well on course for another milestone as Portugal came out of the blocks to open the scoring after just two minutes through Renato Sanches.
However, it didn’t go as planned as Serbia bounced back and dominated the remainder of the first half and gained a well-deserved goal from Dusan Tadic’s strike squeezed in off the post to level them up just a few minutes before the halftime break.
Ronaldo was quiet for the better part of the night as another chance to score his 800th career goal came and went. Instead, it was Aleksandar Mitrovic who scored the vital stoppage-time winner to earn Serbia the qualification spot. Just over a year ago, Mitrovic was the villain for his country as he was the only player to fail to score in a penalty shootout against Scotland that saw Serbia miss out on Euro 2020.
The striker has now redeemed himself in a dramatic way after heading home Tadic’s cross.
“It was an amazing game,” said Mitrovic. “We were the better team today in every aspect of the game,” he added.
Portugal will now have to play two tricky one-off playoff matches in March to maintain their record of qualifying for every major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.