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Cristiano Ronaldo

Watch Ronaldo fume at coach Santos as Portugal miss out on automatic qualification for 2022 World Cup

4:14 PM IST 15/11/21
Cristiano Ronaldo Fernando Santos Portugal vs Serbia
The Manchester United superstar can still help to book a place at next year’s showpiece in Qatar, but a star-studded side are now in the play-offs

Cristiano Ronaldo was left less than impressed after seeing Portugal have an automatic qualification ticket to the 2022 World Cup snatched away from them in dramatic style against Serbia.

Fernando Santos’ star-studded squad needed to take just a point from their final Group A fixture in order to book their place at next year’s showpiece in Qatar.

They were on course to achieve that in Lisbon until Aleksandar Mitrovic struck a 90th-minute winner for the visitors and condemned Ronaldo and Co to a place in the play-offs.

What happened?

Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure at the full-time whistle as he was left to reflect on what could have been, and what Portugal still need to do in order to reach another World Cup.

He was clearly incensed about something and took part of that anger out on coach Santos when approached for a post-match handshake.

Five-time Ballon d’Or winner Ronaldo has always been a man to wear his heart on his sleeve and will never be happy with second best.

Portugal, though, are doing things the hard way and squad harmony will need to be restored before entering the play-offs in March 2022.

What has Ronaldo said?

The star later posted a message on his Instagram page, saying: "Football has shown us time and time again that, at times, it is the most winding paths that lead to the most desired outcomes.

"Yesterday's result was tough, but not enough to get us down. The objective of being present at the 2022 World Cup is still very much alive and we know what we have to do to get there. No excuses. Portugal [must be] heading to Qatar."

What did Santos say?

A man that guided Portugal to European Championship glory in 2016 was eager to play the incident down afterwards, claiming that Ronaldo was questioning a late decision from the match officials.

He said: “Nobody was explaining anything.

“He was telling the other guy that he had scored a goal at the last minute and that the referee didn't count [it]. That's what he was saying at the time.

“On the field, he said that we scored a goal and the referee didn't count it, but it's his outburst. It's perfectly normal.”

Will Portugal qualify for the 2022 World Cup?

It appeared at one stage as though Portugal would ease their way through with the minimum of fuss as Renato Sanches fired them in front inside three minutes.

Dusan Tadic, however, restored parity before half-time and Mitrovic wrapped up a stunning 2-1 victory for Serbia in the closing stages.

Despite being disappointed at missing out on top spot, Santos remains convinced that his side will join the global elite in Qatar for another shot at World Cup glory.

He told reporters afterwards: “The truth is that we did not have a good performance overall.

“Therefore, we have to say sorry. The Portuguese people are obviously sad. Not more than us, but just like us.

“But my team will be at the Qatar World Cup. That is guaranteed.

“We just have to compete in the play-offs, which is not common for us. Portugal never went through a play-off with me, but they played it on three occasions and qualified for the finals in all of them.”

Further reading

Ronaldo makes ‘dream come true’ for young pitch invader

Did Ronaldo join the wrong Manchester club?

How tall is Cristiano Ronaldo?