|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
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.