Cristiano Ronaldo conceded that Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Serbia was "tough" but vowed that Portugal's hopes of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup are "still very much alive."

Despite an early goal from Renato Sanches in Lisbon, an equaliser from Dusan Tadic and a 90th-minute Aleksandar Mitrovic header saw Serbia leapfrog Portugal to win Group A in World Cup qualifying.

Fernando Santos' men must now go through the play-offs in March if they are to qualify for the showpiece tournament, though captain Ronaldo reassured he still believes his side will qualify for Qatar.

"Football has shown us time and time again that, at times, it is the most winding paths that lead to the most desired outcomes," the 36-year-old posted on Instagram.

"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 [are] heading to Qatar."

Ronaldo scored six goals in seven games for his country in qualifying, which included a goal against the Republic of Ireland that saw him become the all-time record goalscorer in international football, overtaking Iran's Ali Daei (109).

Portugal head coach Santos played down a gesture made by Ronaldo after the late defeat, insisting that his captain was referencing March's reverse fixture in Belgrade, in which the Manchester United forward was not awarded a stoppage-time goal despite the ball appearing to cross the line in the 2-2 draw.

"Nobody was explaining anything," Santos told reporters when asked about Ronaldo. "He was telling the other guy that there [in Serbia] he had scored a goal at the last minute and that the referee didn't count.

"That's what he was saying at the time. It wasn't a matter for us to be there now. On the field, he said that we scored a goal there and the referee didn't, but it's his outburst. It's perfectly normal."

Fernando Santos played down Cristiano Ronaldo's gesture after Portugal missed out on automatic World Cup qualification, though the under-fire head coach guaranteed his team will be in Qatar next year.

Portugal will feature in the World Cup play-offs following Sunday's dramatic 2-1 defeat at home to Serbia in Lisbon.

Requiring only a draw to book their trip to Qatar in Group A, Portugal were on track after Renato Sanches and Dusan Tadic traded goals in the opening half.

However, Aleksandar Mitrovic came off the bench and scored in the 90th minute to send Serbia to the showpiece tournament.

Portugal superstar and captain Ronaldo cut a frustrated figure afterwards, gesturing as coach Santos approached him on the pitch post-game.

But Santos insisted Ronaldo was referencing March's reverse fixture in Belgrade, where the five-time Ballon d'Or winner was not awarded a stoppage-time goal, despite the ball appearing to cross the line in the 2-2 draw.

"Nobody was explaining anything," Santos told reporters when asked about Ronaldo. "He was telling the other guy that there [in Serbia] he had scored a goal at the last minute and that the referee didn't count.

"That's what he was saying at the time. It wasn't a matter for us to be there now. On the field, he said that we scored a goal there and the referee didn't, but it's his outburst. It's perfectly normal.

"Now no one goes after a game to explain what happened or didn't happen. I went to raise the players' heads."

Ronaldo's Portugal will take part in the play-offs as one of the second-placed seeded teams.

The play-offs will not be contested in two-legged ties, with the semi-finals and final set to take place in March next year.

"The truth is that we did not have a good performance overall," Santos said. "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.

"We will do it again. And I personally took part in a play-off, too. And I also qualified for the World Cup."

Serbia head coach Dragan Stojkovic insisted there is no limit to what the country can achieve after they qualified for the 2022 World Cup in dramatic fashion.

Aleksandar Mitrovic scored in the 90th minute to break Portugal's hearts as Serbia reached next year's showpiece tournament in Qatar thanks to a last-gasp 2-1 victory in Group A on Sunday.

Portugal only required a draw to earn automatic qualification and Cristiano Ronaldo's men were on track after Renato Sanches and Dusan Tadic traded first-half goals in Lisbon.

However, Serbia dominated and were rewarded when substitute Mitrovic headed home late as Portugal were relegated to the play-offs.

"We have no limit, we will analyse everything after this, and we did everything we did perfectly," Stojkovic said post-game.

"We showed in the end that we are better. We have the potential for much bigger things."

Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2020 following a disappointing play-off defeat to Scotland.

Mitrovic – Serbia's all-time leading scorer – said: "I don't know what to say. I would cry and laugh at the same time. 

"Great victory, we came to Portugal to play football, to win. We were better, outplayed the opponent and deservedly celebrated."

Serbia captain Tadic, who equalised in the 33rd minute to cancel out Sanches' early opener, praised the impact of Stojkovic.

Stojkovic was appointed in March, replacing under-fire boss Mladen Krstajic.

"There are a lot of emotions at the moment and everyone is very happy and satisfied," Tadic added. "Since [Stojkovic] came, I think that a smile has returned and that we are playing beautiful football, which we showed today. 

"We showed that we can come to Portugal to dominate and win. I think that everyone who wears this coat of arms and who is a citizen of this country should be very happy and proud."

"Serbia should go to the World and European Championships continuously," Tadic said. "I hope that [Stojkovic] will stay for a long time and that Serbia will go to big competitions all the time."

Bernardo Silva apologised to Portugal fans following a dramatic 2-1 loss to Serbia in Lisbon on Sunday that left the Selecao facing a World Cup qualifying play-off.

Portugal only needed to avoid defeat in order to finish top of Group A and secure an automatic qualifying spot for the tournament in Qatar next year.

Renato Sanches' early strike put the hosts in the lead, but Dusan Tadic levelled and Aleksandar Mitrovic headed in a 90th-minute winner to seal sensationally seal Serbia's World Cup spot.

Manchester City midfielder Silva pulled no punches with his verdict on Portugal's performance.

"[It was a] terrible game for Portugal," Silva told O Jogo. "We managed to score the goal early, but then we stopped playing. Words fail me. We have to do more than we did today.

"We have a play-off, where we'll give our best. At home, with 65,000 people we had to do better. I want to apologise because they came to see a game they shouldn't have seen.

"The plan was to try to win the game. To have the ball. Something that didn't happen in any moment of the game. That at home and with the quality of our players is unacceptable. We have to see what failed and try to improve from there on."

Joao Palhinha agreed with Silva's assessment of the team's negative performance, but insisted they are good enough to qualify for the World Cup.

"We are here to take responsibility," Palhinha told RTP. "We didn't play a good game, we just defended in the second half and Serbia ended up having happiness in the final minutes, but [qualification is] still within our reach.

"Serbia played a good game, but we had the capacity and level to be superior. We are very sad, the dressing room is on the wane for not having achieved the direct qualification, but we have to go chasing them in the next games, because we have more than value to be in the World Cup.

"Life is not a constant of victories, all people who are successful in life go through difficulties and this feeling has to give us more strength."

Aleksandar Mitrovic's late winner saw Serbia seal their spot at the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Portugal in Lisbon.

Portugal went ahead after just two minutes as Bernardo Silva capitalised on a defensive error to set up Renato Sanches, who opened the scoring with an unerring finish. 

Dusan Tadic's deflected strike levelled the scores later in the first half, with Rui Patricio partially culpable for allowing the ball to cross the line.

Substitute Mitrovic completed a dramatic turnaround in the 90th minute as he headed in from Tadic's cross to send Serbia top of Group A and condemn Portugal to the playoffs.

Portugal enjoyed a dream start as Silva dispossessed Nemanja Gudelj before finding Sanches, who advanced into the area and rifled past Predrag Rajkovic.

Dusan Vlahovic thought he had equalised 10 minutes later as he struck towards the bottom-right corner, but his left-footed effort bounced off the post and away from danger.

Serbia did draw level in the 33rd minute when Tadic's fierce strike from the edge of the area took a deflection, causing Patricio to fumble into his own net.

The hosts came within inches of reclaiming the lead after the interval as Sanches' blocked effort was cleared against Rajkovic's back and rolled just wide.

Serbia appeared surprisingly conservative in the second half but Mitrovic, who headed wide only minutes before, grabbed a dramatic winner with just a minute remaining of normal time as he nodded in at the back post from Tadic's cross to ensure his country's place at the World Cup.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's late winner saw Serbia seal their spot at the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Portugal in Lisbon.

Portugal went ahead after just two minutes as Bernardo Silva capitalised on a defensive error to set up Renato Sanches, who opened the scoring with an unerring finish. 

Dusan Tadic's deflected strike levelled the scores later in the first half, with Rui Patricio partially culpable for allowing the ball to cross the line.

Substitute Mitrovic completed a dramatic turnaround in the 90th minute as he headed in from Tadic's cross to send Serbia top of Group A and condemn Portugal to the playoffs.

Portugal enjoyed a dream start as Silva dispossessed Nemanja Gudelj before finding Sanches, who advanced into the area and rifled past Predrag Rajkovic.

Dusan Vlahovic thought he had equalised 10 minutes later as he struck towards the bottom-right corner, but his left-footed effort bounced off the post and away from danger.

Serbia did draw level in the 33rd minute when Tadic's fierce strike from the edge of the area took a deflection, causing Patricio to fumble into his own net.

The hosts came within inches of reclaiming the lead after the interval as Sanches' blocked effort was cleared against Rajkovic's back and rolled just wide.

Serbia appeared surprisingly conservative in the second half but Mitrovic, who headed wide only minutes before, grabbed a dramatic winner with just a minute remaining of normal time as he nodded in at the back post from Tadic's cross to ensure his country's place at the World Cup.

Aleksandar Mitrovic's late winner saw Serbia seal their spot at the 2022 World Cup with a 2-1 win over Portugal in Lisbon.

Portugal went ahead after just two minutes as Bernardo Silva capitalised on a defensive error to set up Renato Sanches, who opened the scoring with an unerring finish. 

Dusan Tadic's deflected strike levelled the scores later in the first half, with Rui Patricio partially culpable for allowing the ball to cross the line.

Substitute Mitrovic completed a dramatic turnaround in the 90th minute as he headed in from Tadic's cross to send Serbia top of Group A and condemn Portugal to the playoffs.

The only similarity between Portugal and Brazil is that they will both have a 2022 World Cup spot secured by Sunday, according to Fernando Santos. 

Brazil booked their place in Qatar on Thursday with a 1-0 victory over Colombia, their 11th win in 12 qualifiers through which they have remained undefeated. 

Despite having accrued six points more than closest rivals Argentina, Tite's side receive regular criticism for a pragmatic approach and lack of flair. 

Portugal have come under fire for similar reasons during their World Cup qualifying campaign, with a 0-0 draw against the Republic of Ireland on Thursday doing little to assuage the frustration. 

A draw against Serbia at the Estadio da Luz on Sunday will be enough for Portugal to secure a place at the World Cup, which Santos believes would then be the only thing his team have in common with Brazil. 

Asked if he felt there were any similarities between Brazil and Portugal, Santos replied: "What I get from that question is that Brazil have qualified and that's what I believe will happen tomorrow with Portugal and we'll be present at the World Cup finals. Other than that, there is no comparison." 

Portugal were held to a 2-2 draw against Serbia in Belgrade back in March and will simply need to avoid defeat to seal top spot in Group A. 

The two teams have met five times since March 2015, with Portugal going unbeaten and claiming three wins.

"The idea cannot be to play for a draw. The two teams will try to win the game. That's what I think," said Santos. 

"I don't think it will be a game of patience. No team will play crazy, not even Serbia who need to win will play like that. 

"But Serbia always play to win. They won't be completely unbalanced. If they get unbalanced, they are taking more risks. 

"The two teams have great ability, but I believe Portugal will win the game." 

Luka Doncic posted a triple-double to lead Slovenia to their first Olympics berth in men's basketball as European nations claimed the final four spots in the Tokyo 2020 field. 

Dallas Mavericks star Doncic had 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as Slovenia defeated hosts Lithuania 96-85 in Kaunas on Sunday. 

In other qualifying tournament finals, Italy stunned Serbia 102-95, Germany defeated Brazil 75-64 and the Czech Republic downed Greece 97-72. 

With those countries headed to Tokyo later this month, the field is now set. 

Group A will consist of defending champions the United States, France, Iran and the Czech Republic, with Australia, Nigeria, Germany and Italy in Group B.

In Group C, hosts Japan will contend with Argentina, Spain and Slovenia. 

Doncic and Slovenia face a difficult group, as Spain won the bronze medal at Rio 2016 after a close loss to the USA in the semi-finals, but the 22-year-old was ecstatic after qualifying. 

"I don't care about the MVP," Doncic said. "We won here. We're going to the Olympics, the first time in our country.

"It's amazing. I think every kid dreams about being in the Olympics. I did too. So, here we are. We fought really, really hard, and I think we deserve to be here."

Italy's defeat of short-handed Serbia, who were missing NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, was the biggest upset of the final qualifying round. 

Serbia were beaten finalists against Team USA in the Rio 2016 gold medal game, while Italy are in the Olympics for the first time since taking silver in Athens in 2004. 

 

Reggae Boyz captain, Damion Lowe, described the team’s 1-1 draw against Serbia in Japan this morning as a step in the right direction for the team that is preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup and FIFA World Cup qualifiers later this year.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has been forced to pull out of its upcoming friendly international against Japan, as a breakdown in COVID-19 protocol communications will see the Caribbean team unable to field enough players.

The game was scheduled for Thursday, June 3rd but the majority of the team’s English-based contingent will not arrive in time for the fixture.  The issue stems from the fact the English-based players did PCR tests using the widely accepted dual method of the nostril and oral swabs, however, Japan only accepts the more complicated nasal PCR tests.

According to reports, the Japan Football Association (JSA) had not informed the Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) of the specific requirement.  As a result, the six players were denied boarding in Amsterdam after they were found to not have the specific PCR coronavirus test results required for entry into Japan.

The England-based players have since returned home to do the necessary PCR test but, having rebooked, will not reach Japan until Wednesday. The members of the delegation who left Jamaica did the correct PCR test and were accepted on the flight from Houston to Japan, except for Tyreek McGee who did not board the flight to Japan for reasons yet to be conveyed.  The player, however, did have the required PCR test done. He is set to return home.

The remaining matches against Serbia, on the 7th, and the Japan Olympic team, on the 12th, will go ahead as planned.

The Jamaica Football Federation (JFF) has confirmed that several players invited to be part of the national squad for the team's upcoming matches against Japan and Serbia next month.

Initially, the JFF had named a 30-man for the pair of friendlies but has since revealed that a few of the players will be unavailable for the engagement due to various reasons. 

According to the release some players had injuries, visa and documentation issues, extended club commitments, and personal reasons. The football body, however, remained hopeful of having the full team assembled in time for the Gold Cup, which will take place in July.

The team will face Japan in Sapporo, on Thursday, June 3, followed by Serbia on June 7 in Kobe and the Japan Olympic team in Nagoya on Saturday, June 12.

 

Jamaica squad

  1. Dennis Taylor
  2. Jeadine White
  3. Dillon Barnes
  4. Liam Moore
  5. Javon East
  6. Curtis Tilt
  7. Kasey Palmer
  8. Oniel Fisher
  9. Amarii Bell
  10. Luca Levee
  11. Andre Gray
  12. Tyreek Magee
  13. Blair Turgott
  14. Adrian Mariappa
  15. Kevaughn Isaacs
  16. Kemal Malcolm
  17. Jahshaun Anglin
  18. Kevon Lambert
  19. Damion Lowe
  20. Wesley Harding
  21. Devon Williams
  22. Junior Flemmings

 

Leon Bailey and Michail Antonio will not be available for the Reggae Boyz matches against Japan and Serbia that have been scheduled for June as Jamaica’s senior squad continues its preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July and the World Cup qualifiers in September.

The armband tossed away by an angry Cristiano Ronaldo in Portugal's match against Serbia last Saturday has sold for more than £50,000 in a charity auction.

Jovan Simic, founder of the humanitarian organisation Zajedno za Zivot (Together for Life), said the discarded armband had been bought by a betting firm for the "great figure of 7.5million dinars".

That amounts to around £54,300 and the funds will go towards paying for treatment for a Serbian six-month-old boy, Gavrilo Djurdjevic. According to Serbian news reports, the young child has spinal muscular atrophy and the treatment he requires will cost over €2million, with a major fundraising campaign under way.

Firefighter Djordje Vukicevic, at pitchside for the game, was able to pick up the armband and donate it for auction.

Portugal superstar Ronaldo flung it away and stormed off the pitch in Belgrade in the closing moments of the March 27 match, having felt he was wronged by a decision to disallow his last-gasp effort.

Ronaldo was certain the ball had crossed the line, but officials disagreed as Serbia rallied from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in the World Cup qualifier. The 36-year-old forward was booked for his protestations.

Simic added: "Congratulations to firefighter Djordje and his colleagues, as well as to all the wonderful people who helped!"

The auction was blighted by fake bids, Serbian news reports said, before the Mozzart Bet company made its winning offer.

Cristiano Ronaldo will not be stripped of the Portugal captaincy after his "moment of great frustration" in the closing stages of Saturday's controversial draw with Serbia, head coach Fernando Santos has insisted.

Ronaldo was convinced his last-gasp effort crossed the line, but the officials disagreed as Serbia rallied from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in World Cup qualifying.

Stefan Mitrovic made back-to-back goal-line clearances to thwart Portugal in stoppage time, though Ronaldo was adamant his effort crossed the line in Belgrade, where there was no VAR in place to review the decision.

Ronaldo was booked for his protestations before he angrily threw his captain's armband on the floor and walked off the field with just seconds remaining.

Santos revealed after the game that "embarrassed" referee Danny Makkelie had apologised upon reviewing footage of the incident. 

While Santos accepts Ronaldo should not have behaved the way he did, the Portugal boss has no intention of taking the captain's armband away from his talisman ahead of Tuesday's Group A clash with Luxembourg. 

"He will keep the armband," Santos told a media conference. "If he had offended the coach, his colleagues or the federation, then yes, we would have to think. Nothing like that happened. 

"What happened was a moment of great frustration that could have happened to me. Frustration of someone who always wants to win, who gives everything for the national team. It happened to him, it could have been someone else. 

"He was the first to recognise that he should not have done it. He will be captain for sure."

Midfielder Ruben Neves spoke alongside Santos on Monday and hailed Ronaldo as an "exemplary captain". 

"He did not apologise and he does not have to," the Wolves man said. "He is an exemplary captain for everyone. 

"We all felt the frustration he felt at that moment; it was a difficult moment for everyone. We know Ronaldo very well and we know what he can give us every day."

Portugal are level with Serbia on four points atop Group A, one point ahead of Luxembourg after their stunning win over the Republic of Ireland.

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