Cristiano Ronaldo will need to go through the World Cup playoffs with Portugal to join an exclusive club after the nation were stunned by Serbia in a dramatic evening in Lisbon
Cristiano Ronaldo ’s hopes of equalling a World Cup record are in jeopardy after Portugal missed out on automatic qualification for the finals in Qatar.
Fernando Santos’s side only needed a draw at home to second-placed Serbia in Lisbon on Sunday night to book their place in next year’s tournament.
Renato Sanches gave Portugal an early lead but Ajax forward Dusan Tadic equalised for the visitors before the break and Serbia clinched their place with a last-minute Aleksandar Mitrovic winner.
Serbia were one of three nations to guarantee their place in Qatar on Sunday alongside Spain – following a nervy last day win at home to Sweden – and Croatia, who dramatically edged out Russia earlier in the day.
Mirror Football rounds up all you need to know from an eventful evening of World Cup qualification.
Ronaldo misses record-equalling stat
Portugal missed the chance to seal their place in Qatar after defeat against Serbia, who ousted them to top spot with a victory in Lisbon.
That means that Manchester United forward Ronaldo may not have the opportunity to play in a record-equalling fifth World Cup finals in Qatar – a feat only achieved by three other players.
Former Germany captain Lothar Matthaus along with Mexican duo Rafael Marquez and Antonio Carbajal are the only other players who have competed in five different World Cups.
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Ronaldo’s long-term rival Lionel Messi will have a chance to join this exclusive club next summer should Argentina – as expected – seal their place, while Mexican midfielder Andres Guardado may also reach that landmark.
Former Italy international Gianluigi Buffon has been in five World Cup squads, but only actually featured in four of them.
Nervy Spain clinch finals place
Portugal’s Iberian neighbours Spain did book their finals play but they had to endure an anxious final day to guarantee their slot.
Luis Enrique’s side enjoyed the lion’s share of possession – 74 percent during the match – but it was second-placed Sweden, who needed a win, who had the better chances early on in the encounter.
Alexander Isak and Emil Forsberg were among those to spurn presentable openings for the visitors, who had held La Roja to a scoreless draw in the Seville stadium in the summer’s Euro finals.
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For Spain, Morata had the game’s first shot in the 84 th minute – an indication of just how opportunities were at a premium in this one.
It was the Juventus striker who secured Spain’s passage to Qatar two minutes later as he followed up on Dani Olmo’s thunderous strike that rebounded off the post, to hit the winner and decide the contest.
Croats pip Russia to top spot
Beaten 2018 finalists Croatia left it late to clinch qualification for the 2022 edition after a Fedor Kudryashov own goal 10 minutes from time cost Russia top spot.
The home side dominated a rain-soaked encounter in Zagreb; clocking up 20 shots on goal compared to just one for the visitors, who had played for a goalless draw.
Russia will go into the playoffs alongside Sweden, Serbia and North Macedonia – who finished second to group winners Germany in Group J, ahead of Romania, Iceland and Armenia.