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Serbia Sends Portugal to World Cup Playoff, Spain and Croatia Punch Tickets to Qatar

Cristiano Ronaldo will have some more work to do if he hopes to go to his fifth World Cup with Portugal. 

Serbia stunned the 2016 European champions at home, overturning an early 1–0 deficit to win 2–1 on a dramatic 90th-minute goal from second-half substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic to shock the Lisbon crowd. The Serbian squad rushed the field to celebrate its World Cup berth while Portugal will head to a new playoff format that features two single-leg elimination rounds in March.

Portugal got off to an excellent start when Lille midfielder Renato Sanches scored in just the second minute for his first international goal since those 2016 Euros. But Ajax midfielder Dusan Tadic scored for the visiting side in the 33rd minute to set up a nail-biting second half.

Somehow Mitrovic, who now has 23 goals in his last 22 games for club and country, was left wide open at the back post for his header before peeling away shirtless in celebration. Mitrovic also scored back in March in a 2–2 draw with Portugal. In that match, Ronaldo threw a tantrum when his last-minute winner erroneously was not awarded.

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After Belgium and France on Saturday, Spain also punched its ticket to Qatar, holding off a stubborn Sweden side thanks to Álvaro Morata's 86th-minute goal. Sweden put itself in a desperate position earlier this week with its shocking 2–0 loss to Georgia that cost it the top spot in the group before Sunday's decider vs. Spain. Sweden will join Portugal in the playoff round, where 40-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be hoping to make good on the chance to reach the World Cup stage again. 

Earlier on Sunday, Croatia caught a massive break, with Russia defender Fyodor Kudryashov's 81st-minute own goal serving as the match-winner. Like Portugal, all Russia needed was a draw to win the group and earn an automatic berth to the 2022 World Cup.

The Russians, along with Sweden and Portugal, will now await the UEFA playoff draw on Nov. 26. The draw will put the 10 second-place teams and the top two remaining teams qualifying via the UEFA Nations League route into three separate semifinal groups, from which three nations will emerge with a ticket to Qatar.   

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