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Soccer: Mitrovic’s last header sends Serbia to World Cup final


Soccer: Mitrovic’s last header sends Serbia to World Cup final.

Serbia secured an automatic place in the 2022 World Cup final after a 90-minute header from halftime substitute Aleksandar Mitrovic gave them a 2-1 comeback victory over Portugal in their Group A standings on Sunday (November 14).

The result brought Serbia to first place with 20 points, three more than Portugal, who only needed a draw to finish first on goal difference and qualify, but will now head to the March playoffs.

Mitrovic beat home goalkeeper Rui Patricio with a header down at the far post to spark wild celebrations on the Serbian bench after visiting captain Dusan Tadic canceled a Renato Sanches opening opener for Portugal.

The home side made a dream start in the second minute after Bernardo Silva stole the ball from Nemanja Gudelj in the danger zone and fed Sanches, who took it 15 meters ahead of goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic.

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Undeterred by being left behind, the visitors closed in when Dusan Vlahovic, who preferred Mitrovic as his sole striker, hit the post before Patricio gave Serbia the draw.

A seemingly innocuous foray ended with Tadic firing a deflected shot from 20 meters that slid on Patricio’s fingertips over the line.

A poorer goalkeeper gave Portugal a golden opportunity to regain the lead at the half-time break when Rajkovic spilled the ball, but Joao Moutinho’s shot was blocked on the line by Nikola Milenkovic.

Serbian coach Dragan Stojkovic put Mitrovic in Gudelj’s place and his bid to deploy an extra striker for a defensive midfielder paid off when the Fulham striker, his country’s all-time leading scorer with 44 goals. in 69 appearances, he delivered.

It looked like Portugal would hold on after Mitrovic headed inches wide in the 85th minute, but the striker had the last laugh as he drifted away from his death markers to return home after a Tadic cross from the right.

Mitrovic said Serbia’s confidence before the game was justified by a bold performance.

“We came here to play football and, having been the best team, we won everything,” he told Serbia Nova television.

“We are reaping the rewards of hard work and the belief that we will be able to defy the odds and beat Portugal. We are very happy, first and foremost for our country and the people.” Stojkovic added: “We deserved to win tonight as the boys showed so much character. This is a great achievement for Serbian football.

“The team showed maturity and composure under the most intense pressure and I would have said the same if it had stayed 1-1 and we had limited ourselves to the playoffs.”


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