Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal took on Serbia in their final 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers Group A fixture on Sunday night at Estadio da Luz. The hosts went into the game as Group A leaders, only needing to secure a draw to book their place at next year’s grand event in Qatar. Unfortunately, the underdogs Serbia had something else in mind.
To the home crowd’s delight, Portugal pulled themselves ahead after just two minutes of play, thanks to Bernardo Silva’s quick thinking and Renato Sanches’ finishing. Serbia, however, were not ruffled by the early goal and came at the hosts stronger than ever. In the 33rd minute, Ajax’s Dusan Tadic tested Portugal keeper Rui Patricio from the edge of the box and was rewarded for it.
Serbia kept charging in the second half but could not find a way through until substitute Aleksander Mitrovic’s last-gasp winner. A fine Tadic cross found Mitrovic inside the area who turned the ball in effortlessly. With the 2-1 win, Serbia finished top of the group and qualified automatically for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Portugal will now have to go through the play-offs to make an appearance in Qatar next year.
Here are the five Portugal players who did not turn up for their most important World Cup Qualifier against Serbia:
#5 Ruben Dias
Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias is one of the best defenders out there. But on Wednesday he looked unimposing and dejected, cutting a frustrating figure against a determined Serbia side.
Dias could not do much about the first goal, but he was partially at fault for the second. The Portuguese failed to keep track of Mitrovic inside the box, which ultimately allowed him to score an unchallenged header.
It was a disappointing night for a player of his caliber and he must figure out a way to bounce back before the play-offs come calling.
#4 Nuno Mendes
Paris Saint-Germain left-back Nuno Mendes has already become quite a sensation in the French capital. In national colors, however, he was far from convincing on Wednesday night.
Mendes, who is known for his marauding runs down the left flank, failed to excite fans and was leaving too much space when joining the attack.
Serbian players had the player’s number and stopped him in his tracks more often than not. The 19-year-old was fouled thrice and was not brave enough to take the fight to the Serbians.