Aleksandar Mitrović (Serbian Cyrillic) Serbian professional footballer who plays as a striker for EFL Championship club Fulham and the Serbian national team, for which he is the all-time leading goalscorer, has admitted that his team was the better side in their encounter 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.
The heartbreaking defeat leaves Portugal in second place, with Ronaldo’s nation now forced to earn World Cup qualification via the play-offs in March which might Still see them drawn against tough teams. But for in-form Mitrovic, their focus can now go towards Qatar and the Serbian striker could not be more delighted.
“We arrived Portugal though not been the favourite, but with the zeal and determination to play football and having been the better side, we earned it all”, Mitrović told Serbia’s Nova television.
“We the Serbian national team reaping and enjoying the rewards of hard work, zeal, determination and the belief that we would be able to defy the odds and beat Portugal,” he continued.
“We are proud, overjoyed and glad to be able to make our country and citizens proud despite all odds.”
The Serbia players and staffs 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, no Matter the outcome except for a win,they won’t be able to make it to the world cup finals.
Portugal started 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.
Despite going behind within two minutes of play responded well to going behind early on, with Dusan Vlahovic the Fiorentina player striking the woodwork before Dusan Tadic of Ajax equalised via a strike that went through goalkeeper Rui Patricio’s body and over the line.
Having equalised Serbia still 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.
The Serbia manager 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.
“I personally know We deserved to win tonight as the lads showed so much character. This is a massive accomplishment for Serbian football Association.
“My boys 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,but finally hardwork pays and that’s good.”
Meanwhile the host nation for the encounter Portugal, 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 if the result of the day didn’t go on their side.
There are also other possibilities of teams to join them, with the likes of Italy, Switzerland, Finland, Ukraine, Wales, Czech Republic, North Macedonia or Romania – depending on the rest of the week’s results.