Portugal missed out on automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup following a 1-2 home defeat to Serbia. Spain, whose qualification was also in doubt ahead of the last preliminary round game, won 1-0 against Sweden at home and has booked its ticket to Qatar.

Cristiano Ronaldo - Portugal
A tearful Cristiano Ronaldo after Portugal’s 1-2 home defeat against Serbia in the European World Cup qualifiers. (Image: marca.com)

It was a dramatic evening for the Portugal national team and its fans in Lisbon. The hosts only needed a draw in front of second-placed Serbia on Sunday night to make sure they were going to top Group A of the European qualifiers.

Renato Sanches punched early for Portugal with less than two minutes being played, but Ajax forward Dusan Tadic equalized in the 33rd minute. Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic netted Serbia’s winner in the last minute of normal time to send them to Qatar. Ronaldo and his colleagues will now have to survive a playoff before confirming their seats at the 2022 accolade. Ronaldo was spotted crying after the final whistle in the game as frustration erupted in Lisbon.

Spain went through a fierce battle with Sweden, but won thanks to Álvaro Morata’s late winner in the 86th minute, while Croatia beat Russia thanks to an own goal in the 81st minute to also qualify directly.

Ronaldo’s record at risk

If Portugal ends up going to Qatar, Ronaldo will have the opportunity to play his fifth World Cup. Manchester United’s superstar would join German legend Lothar Matthaus and Mexican duo Rafael Marquez and Antonio Carbajal, as the only three players with five World Cup participations to their names.

Ronaldo’s long-term rival, Leo Messi, will also reach that landmark if Argentina qualifies, with Mexico’s Andres Guardado also close to joining that exclusive club next year.

Ronaldo is at +1500 to become the top goalscorer at the Qatar World Cup, the same as England’s Harry Kane, Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus, and Germany’s Timo Werner. Messi is the bookies’ choice for the Golden Boot right now at +1000, while Brazil’s Neymar and France’s Antoine Griezmann sit behind at +1100.

Portugal is currently at +2400 to win the World Cup in Qatar, with bookies estimating a 3.8% chance for Ronaldo and his teammates to lift the trophy in December 2022. Ronaldo, 36, scored 115 goals in 184 games for Portugal. He holds the record for the highest number of international goals in world football, having surpassed Iranian star Ali Daei earlier this year.

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