Cristiano Ronaldo’s hopes of playing in a record-equalling fifth World Cup hang in the balance after Serbia stunned Portugal 2-1 in Lisbon to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
The result is Portugal’s first loss of their World Cup qualifying campaign, while Serbia failed to taste defeat in their eight fixtures.
Portugal got off to a perfect start at the Estadio da Luz after Renato Sanches broke the deadlock in the second minute of the game.
Dusan Tadic equalised just after the half-hour mark for Serbia after his deflected effort pass through the hands of Rui Patricio.
Cristiano Ronaldo was kept quiet as another chance to score his 800th career goal came and went.
Aleksandar Mitrovic grabbed the vital goal in stoppage time after he nodded home Tadic’s corner in what was his 44th goal on the international stage.
The Fulham striker made amends after failing to score in a penalty shootout against Scotland that saw Serbia miss out on Euro 2020
“It was an amazing game,” said Mitrovic.
“We came here to play football and having been the better side, we earned it all.
“We are reaping the rewards of hard work and the belief that we would be able to defy the odds and beat Portugal.
“We are overjoyed, for our country and the people first and foremost.”
“We were the better team today in every aspect of the game,” he added.
Manchester United star Ronaldo, 36, was reduced to tears after the full-time whistle with his chances of playing in a fifth World Cup now in major jeopardy.
Portugal now needing one-off playoff matches in March to maintain their record of qualifying for every major tournament since the 1998 World Cup.
“We must apologise to the Portuguese but my team will be at the World Cup, that’s guaranteed,” said defiant Portugal coach Fernando Santos.
“We will have to prepare well to beat our opponents in March and to get to Qatar. But I always trust my players,” he added
Portugal midfielder Joao Palhinha said: “We have to take responsibility because we had a poor game.
“We just defended in the second half. Credit to Serbia, they played very well but we had the capacity to be on top.
“Everyone in the dressing room is disappointed but we have to look ahead to the playoffs now because we are more than good enough to be in the World Cup.
“You can’t win all the time. Difficulties are part of life and this feeling should give us more strength.”
Spain and Croatia secured their places in Qatar 2022
Spain and Croatia did secure their places in Qatar on Sunday thanks to 1-0 wins over Sweden and Russia respectively.