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Soccer: Serbia upsets Portugal, casts doubt on Ronaldo's World Cup hopes

Soccer: Serbia upsets Portugal, casts doubt on Ronaldo's World Cup hopes
Cristiano Ronaldo (L) and Portugal must qualify for the 2022 World Cup through a playoff tournament due to their failure to advance through group stage play. Photo by Antonio Cotrim/EPA-EFE

Nov. 15 (UPI) -- Aleksandar Mitrovic scored a 90th-minute goal to lead Serbia to a 2-1 upset win over Portugal in a World Cup qualifier. The result secured a spot for Serbia and sends Portugal to a playoff for a place in the 2022 tournament.

Dusan Tadic also scored and logged an assist in Serbia's Group A victory Sunday at Estadio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon, Portugal. Renato Sanches scored in the loss.

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Sanches gave Portugal a 1-0 lead with a score in the 2nd minute. Midfielder Bernardo Silva stole the ball from the Serbia defense right above the box to spark the score. He followed the steal with a poked pass to Sanches.

The Portugal right wing dribbled into the box and ripped a right-footed shot into the center of the net.

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Serbia tied the score about 30 minutes later. Midfielder Sasa Lukic recovered a loose ball in the box to set up that score. He sent a pass to his right to find Tadic. Tadic brought the ball in with his right foot, slid it to his left and smacked a shot toward the goal.

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Portugal goalie Rui Patricio stopped the shot, but dropped the save. The ball fell out of his hands and rolled over the goal line.

Portugal and Serbia each fired additional chances, but the game stayed tied through halftime and for most of the second half.

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Tadic set up the game winner with a cross in the 90th minute. The Serbian midfielder dribbled on the right side of the Portugal box and chipped a feed to the far post. Mitrovic stood at the back of a crowd of defenders and redirected the cross with a header just to the right of the let post, beating Patricio.

The goal helped Serbia win Group A and earn an automatic bid into the 2022 World Cup. Serbia totaled six wins, two draws and no losses in the group stage. Portugal won five, lost once and logged two draws.

Germany, Croatia, Denmark, Belgium, France and Spain joined Serbia among the other European teams to clinch spots at the World Cup. Portugal, Scotland, Wales, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Sweden and North Macedonia are among the teams guaranteed of a playoff spot.

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The 12-team playoff takes place in March, with a draw scheduled for Nov. 26. The playoff semifinals are March 24 and 25. The playoff finals are March 28 and 29.

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