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Teary Ronaldo sums up miserable Portugal as they drop to World Cup playoffs after Serbia defeat

Portugal have been condemned to the FIFA World Cup 2022 playoffs after losing to Serbia.
Portugal have been condemned to the FIFA World Cup 2022 playoffs after losing to Serbia.
Emmanuel Ayamga
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Very few managers in the world are currently under more pressure than Portugal's Fernando Santos. The 67-year-old has been in charge of Portugal since 2014, but it appears the end of his reign is near.

Santos led Portugal to their first-ever major triumph when the Selecao romped to the 2016 European Championship. He followed that up with another impressive success as Portugal lifted the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

Since then, though, it has been one disappointment after another for Portugal. He managed to squeeze a lot out of a limited squad in 2016. Santos now has a more talented squad, but he's struggling to adapt to their strengths.

Portugal massively underachieved at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, and their round of 16 exit at Euro 2020 also raised some serious questions. The team's latest defeat to Serbia in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers at home is another low that'll pile the pressure on Santos.

⏹ Final do jogo. O objectivo do Mundial ainda não acabou: há um play-off para disputar. Vamos todos, #VamosComTudo! https://t.co/IXG0t2WWoQ

Serbia shock Portugal

The Selecao started Sunday's game with a squad that was far superior than Serbia, at least on paper. Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota and Bernardo Silva formed a fearsome attacking trident. The likes of Bruno Fernandes, Joao Felix and Ruben Neves were left on the bench, depicting the gulf in quality between the two teams.

Nevertheless, Portugal never managed to control the game. After taking an early lead in the second minute, thanks to Sanches, Santos' side inexplicably dropped deeper and deeper as the game wore on.

That allowed Serbia to get on the front foot, and Dusan Tadic deservedly got the equaliser after the half-hour mark. Portugal should've heeded this wake-up call, but they continued to defend deep into their half. They were made to pay dearly for that at the death when Aleksandar Mitrovic prodded home an unlikely but richly deserving winner for the visitors.

Serbia's win came as a shock to many, but the Selecao played right into the visitors' hands. The sport rewards those who dare, and on the day, Serbia got their reward for taking the game to Portugal.

Just look at Cristiano Ronaldo 😩 https://t.co/tcwX3bayJD

Ronaldo and co drop to playoffs

Every camera inside the Estadio da Luz zoomed into Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo after the final whistle. The Manchester United forward looked dejected, and couldn't hold back his tears.

His demeanour summed up Portugal's miserable night. It was supposed to be the day they qualified for the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. But now they'll have to navigate the treacherous playoffs early next year.

"Our DNA is to play with our feet, but we had difficulties. It's true that the team is lacking personality," Santos admitted after the game, as quoted by Marca.
"Bernardo (Silva) wanted the ball, but he was the only one. We played with fear and a bit of anxiety. The responsibility is mine."

Portugal are likely to be favourites against whichever side they face in the playoffs. But this looks more like a chance missed, especially when a draw against Serbia would've guaranteed them automatic qualification to the FIFA World Cup 2022.


Edited by Bhargav
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