Aleksandar Mitrovic insists Serbia ‘were the better side and earned it all’ against Portugal as matchwinner basks in sealing his country’s 2022 World Cup spot at Cristiano Ronaldo and Co’s expense in decisive qualifier
Serbia hero Aleksandar Mitrovic admitted his team were the better side against Portugal as they sealed qualification to the FIFA World Cup at Cristiano Ronaldo and Co’s expense.
The Fulham forward headed home a 90th-minute winner to earn a 2-1 victory for the Serbians in Lisbon, which ensured the visitors topped the group and earned direct progression to next winter’s finals in Qatar.
That leaves Portugal in second place, with Ronaldo’s nation now forced to earn World Cup qualification via the play-offs in March. But for in-form Mitrovic, their focus can now go towards Qatar and the Serbian striker could not be more delighted.
Serbia matchwinner Aleksandar Mitrovic said his country deserved to beat Portugal 2-1
Mitrovic struck in stoppage time to earn a 2-1 win and send Serbia through to the World Cup
‘We came here to play football and having been the better side, we earned it all,’ he told Serbia’s Nova television.
‘We are reaping the rewards of hard work and the belief that we would be able to defy the odds and beat Portugal.
‘We are overjoyed, for our country and the people first and foremost.’
Serbia went into Sunday night’s qualifier knowing they needed to win to progress to the finals, with Portugal topping the group and going through with any other result.
Portugal got off to the best possible start when Renato Sanches, who started ahead of Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes for the crucial qualifier, put the hosts in front after just two minutes following good work from Bernardo Silva.
The result consigned Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal to a play-off spot for next year’s World Cup
But Serbian responded well to going behind early on, with Dusan Vlahovic striking the woodwork before Dusan Tadic equalised via a strike that went through goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s body and over the line.
Serbia continued to knock on the door with Vlahovic and half-time substitute Mitrovic going close after the break, but the Fulham forward – who 20 goals for the Cottagers already this season – scoring his eighth goal in eight internationals in 2021 via a dramatic stoppage time header.
Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic, who will take his country to the World Cup for the first time as national team manager next year, agreed with Mitrovic that his side were well worth their win on Sunday.
Mitrovic headed home a 90th-minute winner as Serbia completed victory after going behind
Serbia boss Dragan Stojkovic agreed that his side confirmed the 2-1 victory in Lisbon
‘We deserved to win tonight as the lads showed so much character,’ he added. ‘This is a massive accomplishment for Serbian football.
‘The team showed maturity and composure under the most intense pressure and I would have said the same thing if it had stayed 1-1 and we got confined to the playoffs.’
Portugal, meanwhile, will join a play-off group that contains the likes of Sweden, Scotland, Russia as confirmed second-placed teams, while Poland are likely to join them on Monday.
They could be joined by the likes of Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Ukraine, Wales, Czech Republic, North Macedonia or Romania – depending on the rest of the week’s results.