Portugal’s World Cup dream has been cruelly ended by an away goal earned by Serbia in the 2-2 draw that sent the reigning champions crashing out of the World Cup playoffs on Wednesday.
Portugal conceded the golden goal three minutes from time as Serbia winger Aleksandar Mitrovic pounced on a rebound after goalkeeper Rui Patricio had saved a close-range header by Nemanja Matic.
It was the first time a team had conceded a goal in extra time of a World Cup playoff and it stuned Portugal as it kept hopes of a third major tournament in a row alive for Serbia, whose co-hosting of the 1998 tournament is considered the country’s biggest sporting moment.
Nani’s second-half double had given Portugal, under former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, a 2-1 lead but an in-form Mitrovic slammed in a hat-trick in the space of six minutes late in the second half before what would have been his fourth goal at Russia World Cup was cancelled out by Nani’s free kick with the final kick of the game.
It was a major setback for Portugal, who crashed out of the European championships in the group stage when Europe was represented by only one team in the early rounds in 2008.