Sport

Portugal lose automatic World Cup ticket after shocking Serbia defeat

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Safiu Kehinde

2016 European champions, Portugal were denied the chance to automatic qualification to 2022 World Cup after losing to Serbia on Sunday.

The Cristiano Ronaldo-led team were robbed of the chance by eventual leader of Group A, Serbia. The Serbians stole the show after coming from one goal down to grab a late winner.

Portugal took the lead in the first via goal from Renato Sanchez. The lead was short-lived after Dusan Tadic scored the equalizer for the visiting team in the 33rd minute.

Fernando Santos’ men spearheaded by Manchester United star, Cristiano Ronaldo, could not contain the ferocious Serbian team who dominated the whole game. Portugal managed to secure 44 percent ball possession as against Serbia’s 55 percent. The Portuguese team also found it difficult to penetrate Serbia as they could salvage a single shot on target all through the match.

On the other hand, Serbia looked determined to earn the automatic qualification. They recorded seven shots off target and two shots on target – an equalizer and the late winner from super sub, Aleksandar Mitrovic. The Fulham striker came on early in the second half but had to reserve the winning goal till the 93rd minutes.

The win against Portugal ensured that Serbia earned the automatic qualification having topped the group stage with 20 points – 3 points ahead of second placed Portugal.

Cristiano Ronaldo will have to lead his team into the March playoffs with other group stage runner-ups in an attempt to reach Qatar 2022. Portugal will face the likes of Sweden, Russia, North Macedonia, and any of other countries who fall second place after today’s last group stage match.

Other European countries that has earned automatic qualification alongside Serbia include, Spain, Croatia, and Germany.

Today’s match will also produce automatic qualified countries like Denmark who are currently topping Group F with seven points ahead of Scotland; Italy or Switzerland who are on equal points in Group C; and England who are three points ahead of Poland.

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