Portugal will welcome Serbia to Lisbon on Sunday night needing to avoid defeat in order to top Group A and secure their position at the 2022 World Cup.
Fernando Santos’s side will enter the contest off the back of a goalless draw with the Republic of Ireland, which moved them above Serbia to the top of the section, meaning that the visitors will need to win on Sunday if they are to snatch first position and claim an automatic qualification spot at next year’s finals
Portugal’s clash with the Republic of Ireland on Thursday evening was far from a classic, but Santos’s side secured the point that they needed to move above Serbia to the top of the section, and they are in pole position for the only automatic qualification spot, needing only to avoid defeat to finish first.
A record of five wins and two draws has seen A Selecao collect 17 points, while they have scored 16 times and conceded just four during a successful qualification campaign to date.
Santos’s team are actually unbeaten in World Cup qualification matches since September 2016, while they will bring a six-game unbeaten run in all competitions into Sunday’s key fixture in Lisbon.
Portugal have enjoyed recent success in the European Championship, winning the competition in 2016, in addition to making the final in 2004 and semi-finals in both 2000 and 2012.
However, they have found it difficult to seriously impress at the World Cup since finishing fourth in 2006, having been knocked out in the group stage of the 2014 competition, in addition to only reaching the round of 16 in both 2010 and 2018.
Serbia will believe that they are more than capable of winning on Sunday, and the Eagles were only in friendly action on Thursday, recording a 4-0 victory over Qatar, with their last competitive fixture being the 3-1 home success against Azerbaijan on October 12.
Dragan Stojkovic’s will be desperate to avoid second, which only brings a playoff spot, and they have won four of their five matches in the section since playing out a 2-2 draw with Portugal at the end of March.
Serbia did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup but were present at the finals in 2018, being eliminated in the group stage of the competition, winning just one of their three matches.
The Eagles also surprisingly failed to qualify for Euro 2020, but they are a team to be taken extremely seriously at this level of football due to the quality in their squad, particularly in the forward areas.
In the reverse match back in March, meanwhile, Serbia recovered from a two-goal deficit to claim a point, with Aleksandar Mitrovic and Filip Kostic on the scoresheet in Belgrade.
Portugal World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Portugal form (all competitions):
Serbia World Cup Qualifying – Europe form:
Serbia form (all competitions):
We say: Portugal 1-1 Serbia
This has all of the makings of a terrific game of football, and it will be fascinating to see what occurs in Lisbon. Portugal cannot afford to simply play for a point against a talented Serbia, but we can see this match finishing level, with Santos’s team advancing to the World Cup and Serbia having to accept a playoff spot.