Qatar 2022: World Cup qualifiers and costly tiny margins

Dejected! Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix rue missed chances as they lost at home to Serbia, missing out on direct qualification for the Wo...

Dejected! Cristiano Ronaldo and Joao Felix rue missed chances as they lost at home to Serbia, missing out on direct qualification for the World Cup. (Photo credit: Sky Sports)


Serbia came from behind to beat Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal 2-1 on Sunday night in a packed stadium at Lisbon, it wasn’t written in the script but the crazily talented Portugal side will have to fight for their place in Qatar 2022 World Cup via the playoffs next March.

Serbia advanced directly against bookmakers’ expectations but Portugal aren’t the only one that led their group from the start only to fall off at the tail end and before we go too far, European champions Italy could also risk playoffs if they don’t win well at Northern Ireland.

Norway were well placed to advance at least to the playoffs or even win their group but for a strange goalless draw at home to Latvia on Saturday, at the same time Turkey was elsewhere doing their business incredibly, heaping six goals past a hapless Gibralter.

Norway can still advance but they have to do it the hard way, they have to beat the Netherlands away at Amsterdam, the point they earned against the Oranje in Oslo would amount to nothing if they don’t put up a strong showing, it’s not in their hands alone as they also need Turkey to lose Montenegro.

Step forward Romania, they played entertaining football and rose to the top of their group, they had the chance to seal their qualification with a win over Iceland on Friday but ended up playing goalless after hitting the upright twice and seeing their 21 shots on goal come to nothing;

North Macedonia did their business away at Liechtenstein and then beat Iceland on Sunday 3-1 to seal their qualification to the playoffs, despite Romania’s 2-0 success over the tiny nation of Liechtenstein, they will have to wait for another opportunity in four years.

Sweden also must wait for playoffs after they lost their advantage to Spain in a bizarre circumstance. Sweden were on top of their group, they went to Georgia, needing a win to sustain their leadership position and they managed to lose 2-0 even with the return of Zlatan Ibrahimovic to the team.

On Sunday, they lost to Spain through a late Alvaro Morata strike, the Swedes will now wait for the playoffs in March to stand a chance of qualifying for the World Cup, they would look back at that winnable game in Georgia and rue their missed chances.

In Africa, Nigeria must avoid a loss at home to Cape Verde to advance to the final phase of the qualifiers after their 2-0 win away in Liberia placed them as firm favorites in the group to advance but they can’t afford to be complacent against the visitors who also beat Central Africa Republic to strengthen their case.

Ghana earned a contentious penalty to beat South Africa on Sunday, that means the Bafana Bafana have failed to qualify for the World Cup yet again, leaving them frustrated considering they held the advantage till the very last minute.

It is delicately poised in Group D where Cameroon host Ivory Coast on Tuesday in a winner takes all encounter; Ivory Coast top the group by one point and a draw would be fine for them but the Indomitable Lions must win or forget about the mundial in Qatar next year.

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Qatar 2022: World Cup qualifiers and costly tiny margins
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