It’s winner takes all at Estádio da Luz on Sunday as Portugal host Serbia in the final 2022 World Cup qualifier. Both nations are locked on 17 points in Group A with the Seleção ahead on goal difference.

One nation will secure automatic qualification with the other taking their chances in the playoffs. Let’s take a look at form, squads and potential starting line-ups before the vital match in Lisbon. 

Head-to-Head

Portugal have played Serbia on seven occasions and never lost, registering three wins and four draws. Both teams have scored in each fixture.

The latest encounter was in March with the match resulting in a 2-2 draw at Rajko Mitic Stadium. Portugal dominated the first half, Diogo Jota scoring twice to establish a 2-0 lead.

Serbia fought back in the second half with goals to Aleksandar Mitrović and Filip Kostić bringing them level with 30 minutes remaining.

Nikola Milenković was sent off in added time, Cristiano Ronaldo scoring in the 93rd minute but the goal not awarded due to the absence of goal-line technology. 

Portugal form

Fernando Santos’ side rebounded from Euro 2020 with five straight wins. They won all three World Cup qualifiers, beating Republic of Ireland 2-1, Azerbaijan 3-0 and Luxembourg 5-0. In between, the Seleção played two friendlies against Qatar that resulted in 3-1 and 5-0 victories.

However, Portugal are coming off a disappointing goalless draw in Dublin against Ireland on Thursday, albeit with something of a second-string team.

Portugal squad

Goalkeepers: Rui Patrício, Diogo Costa, José Sá

Defenders: José Fonte, Rúben Dias, João Cancelo, Nélson Semedo, Nuno Mendes, Diogo Dalot

Midfielders: João Moutinho, William Carvalho, Danilo Pereira, Bruno Fernandes, Renato Sanches, Rúben Neves, João Palhinha, Matheus Nunes

Forwards: Cristiano Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, André Silva, Gonçalo Guedes, Diogo Jota, João Félix, Rafael Leão

Portugal predicted line-up

There shouldn’t be too many surprises here, but Santos has some tough decisions to make with the likes of Renato Sanches, Diogo Jota and João Félix.

Serbia form

Serbia are undefeated in the World Cup qualifiers. They drew 1-1 in Ireland before a 1-0 win against Luxembourg and 3-1 win against Azerbaijan.

The Eagles hosted Qatar in a friendly on Thursday, racking up a 4-0 win with Saša Lukić, Luka Jović, Dušan Vlahović and Sergej Milinković-Savić on target.

Serbia squad

Goalkeepers: Predrag Rajković, Marko Dmitrović, Vanja Milinković-Savić, Mile Svilar

Defenders: Nikola Milenković, Stefan Mitrović, Uroš Spajić, Filip Mladenović, Miloš Veljković, Strahinja Pavlović, Mihailo Ristić, Aleksa Terzić

Midfielders: Dušan Tadić, Filip Kostić, Nemanja Gudelj, Nemanja Maksimović, Nemanja Radonjić, Sergej Milinković-Savić, Saša Lukić, Andrija Živković, Marko Grujić, Uroš Račić

Forwards: Aleksandar Mitrović, Luka Jović, Dušan Vlahović

Serbia predicted line-up

Serbia manager Dragan Stojkovic prefers a back-three formation with wing-backs hugging the touch line. Dušan Tadić will pull the strings in the playmaker position. 

Quotes

Fernando Santos, Portugal head coach: "I don’t think it will be a game of patience, but I also don’t think either team will go crazy. Serbia have to win, but I don’t believe they will go all out, pushing everyone forward, as this would allow Portugal to launch counterattacks.

What I expect from Serbia is exactly what has happened in the other games. Since March 2015, this will be our sixth match against this opponent and they have never played any differently.

I believe that tomorrow Portugal will qualify for the World Cup."

Cristiano Ronaldo: "It is for Portugal and for the Portuguese that we want to be present, once again, in the World Cup. And it is with the strength of Portugal and the Portuguese that we are going to get there! We count on your support! Towards Qatar 2022!"

Rúben Dias: "There is the extra factor of finally having a full stadium, at home, which for us is special, being able to be at a decisive moment with our fans close to us. For a player, I think all these factors are extra and the energy between us is good, positive, and we're going with everything."

"I've played 99 games for Portugal (all age levels) and I never started a single match without thinking our aim is to win it."

Dragan Stojkovic, Serbia head coach: "We are well prepared. Regardless of the opponent's name and value, we want to play aggressively and offensively. We are not going to change the way we play and we are going to play to get the result that interests us.

Serbia comes here with only one objective, which is to reach the World Cup. A team like Portugal, playing at home, will not only look for a draw. It will play to win and it has the same objective as Serbia. Neither team lost in this qualifying round, so it's time to decide."

Prediction

Portugal are close to full strength and should show a lot of improvement in Lisbon. Pepe’s suspension is a blow, but José Fonte has been playing regularly for Lille and will step in.

Fernando Santos recently called João Cancelo “the best full-back in the world”, and his combination play with Bernardo Silva should open doors down the right wing. Santos will have a number of weapons on the bench should they be required.

Portugal have had some difficulties against defensive teams that sit deep, but that shouldn't be the case against Serbia. With their wing-backs looking to get forward and join attacks, especially Filip Kostić, there will be space to exploit when the Seleção regain possession.

Serbia are a top-heavy side that have kept one clean sheet in seven World Cup qualifiers. They have dangerous players in Kostić, Dušan Tadić, and three strikers that have all proved they can be prolific - Aleksandar Mitrović, Luka Jović and Dušan Vlahović.

The visitors have an additional reason to win in Lisbon after Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s president, announced that the squad will receive an additional €1 million in bonuses if they are victorious.

Portugal’s mentality will be a key factor in Lisbon. If they approach it with a draw in mind, it could quickly descend into a nightmare, especially if Serbia score first and go into defensive mode.

Força Seleção!

By Matthew Marshall

 

Comments (19)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

"Fernando Santos has a Lamborghini driving on the right lane at 80 kmh " Fernando Santos needs to go. We are better than this. Portugal shouldn't be in this position.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

A line up I would like too see for tomorrow's match

---‐---------------------------Patricio
Cancelo‐------Fonte--------------Dias---------Mendes
--------------------Palhinha--------Sanches
--------------------------Bernardo Silva
Guedes--‐------‐...

A line up I would like too see for tomorrow's match

---‐---------------------------Patricio
Cancelo‐------Fonte--------------Dias---------Mendes
--------------------Palhinha--------Sanches
--------------------------Bernardo Silva
Guedes--‐------‐-------------------------------------Joao Felix
----------------------------Ronaldo

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Renato Sanches and/or João Félix could start, but Gonçalo Guedes has zero chance.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

The striker from udinese should have been in this squad and started against Eire. His performance determining his place against Serbia. Andre Silva's purple patch is over but he wasn't starting for the selecao during it so why would a...

The striker from udinese should have been in this squad and started against Eire. His performance determining his place against Serbia. Andre Silva's purple patch is over but he wasn't starting for the selecao during it so why would a at-this-point-in-time prolific and confident serie A striker get a run. Fonte's club CB partner should be in the squad in place of Dalot. Ricardo Pereira should be Cancelo's backup

GK and DFs match the author. Palhinha and Sanches. Bernardo in that schemer role calling the shots. Leao, Jota and Ronaldo. Bring on Bruno and Felix if it's not working, Silva if you need a goal, Neves to add an extra body in MF , Danilo if you need height and pace and William if you want to slow things down and sure things up. Given the options we should start weaning ourselves of Mourinho.

Given the Serbs size and aerial threat my headache would be Danilo in place of Bernardo and let Sanches roam though his passing can be terrible and then I lose creativity so would also need to replace Jota for Bruno or Felix. Then I would lose a direct running central foil for Ronaldo. They may also be unhappy with Bernado as the primary playmaker. No. Bernardo and Jota are in. Lets play and let's go at them.

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Portugal are going to lose to Serbia. They are not going to not win the 2nd team playoffs. Even if they do squeak in somehow, they have no chance of wining the WorldCup with Santos as the manager and with Ronaldo as a player. What a waste of...

Portugal are going to lose to Serbia. They are not going to not win the 2nd team playoffs. Even if they do squeak in somehow, they have no chance of wining the WorldCup with Santos as the manager and with Ronaldo as a player. What a waste of talent just being thrown away. I rather watch the U-21 team play. They are more entertaining and have usually have no respect for their opponents and play that way. The senior team plays like a bunch of second league players up against first league ones under Santos. They are not very entertaining at all.

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I'm very hopeful Portugal to win tonight, so whether we like it or not, Santos is going to be our manager for the World Cup next year. So let's take a break with the cussing. This is life, you can't always get what you want.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I hope we can see Bernardo play a more central role instead of on the right side. He doesn’t have the pace to constantly take on defenders 1v1. My lineup today:

Patricio
Cancelo - Fonte - Dias - Mendes
Palhinha
Guedes - Bernardo - Sanches - Jota
...

I hope we can see Bernardo play a more central role instead of on the right side. He doesn’t have the pace to constantly take on defenders 1v1. My lineup today:

Patricio
Cancelo - Fonte - Dias - Mendes
Palhinha
Guedes - Bernardo - Sanches - Jota
Ronaldo

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@Kevin M : this 4141 looks indeed interesting

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

I have a bad feeling about this one. The draw from earlier was a bad omen. We will surely curse that disallowed goal from before and Santos will somehow remain manager through at least 2028. He will go when Ronaldo goes. Ronaldo may not go for...

I have a bad feeling about this one. The draw from earlier was a bad omen. We will surely curse that disallowed goal from before and Santos will somehow remain manager through at least 2028. He will go when Ronaldo goes. Ronaldo may not go for another eight to ten years.

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Do we know if Bernardo is available for selection today? Agree with Bernardo playing centrally. I actually would like to see him drop a little deeper today in a true cm, sometimes cdm role. If anyone saw the City v Chelsea game this season,...

Do we know if Bernardo is available for selection today? Agree with Bernardo playing centrally. I actually would like to see him drop a little deeper today in a true cm, sometimes cdm role. If anyone saw the City v Chelsea game this season, Bernardo was superb in his own half and was as defensively brilliant as Kante. Could also provide as extra cover for Cancelo when he pushes forward. Palhinha will be dropping deep to defend for sure, so having Bernardo pester Tadic throughout the night could also be very beneficial.

The main thing that concerns me today is the talent Serbia has up top. Pepe will be missed, he also outpaces Dias and Fonte, so we'll have to watch for that. Thankfully Mitrovic an Vlahovic aren't too pacey, but will most certainly be a very physical battle for Fonte and Dias.

Would love to see Felix start today but I don't see how he, Jota, and Ronaldo can be on the pitch at the same time, and I think in Santos' mind Jota is almost always a guaranteed starter.

Patricio
Cancelo - Dias - Fonte - Mendes
Palhinha - Bernardo
Sanches - Bruno - Jota
Ronaldo

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Agree that Pepe missing will be the biggest factor in our fate today.

Bernardo will most likely start, my concern is that if Cancelo also starts, Santos will likely ask Bernardo to track back and cover Cancelo's forward run, which will again...

Agree that Pepe missing will be the biggest factor in our fate today.

Bernardo will most likely start, my concern is that if Cancelo also starts, Santos will likely ask Bernardo to track back and cover Cancelo's forward run, which will again limit his role on the pitch.

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This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Cancelo never got forward. Nor did Mendes. Nor Jota.

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Frustrating to see that Santos will again field the completely useless Bruno Fernandes. Clueless and stubborn coach. Obvious that Palhinha AND Renato have to play. Their physicality is desperately needed against the Serbs. If PT doesn't manage to...

Frustrating to see that Santos will again field the completely useless Bruno Fernandes. Clueless and stubborn coach. Obvious that Palhinha AND Renato have to play. Their physicality is desperately needed against the Serbs. If PT doesn't manage to dominate the midfield, they will lose.
To me, the 4141 that Kevin M proposed looks very viable. Defensive stability and extreme variability in offensive mode changing it to a 4132: Either Guedes or Jota joins Ronaldo in the frontline when attacking.

Repeating Kevin M's formation here:

Patricio
Cancelo - Fonte - Dias - Mendes
Palhinha
Guedes - Bernardo - Sanches - Jota
Ronaldo

Read More
This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Like I said in my previous post, Portugal will not qualify for the World Cup playing for boring Santos. What a wasted of talent!

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“These players continue to surprise me every day.”

Rúben Amorim
(Sporting coach after 3-1 Lisbon derby victory against Benfica at the Estádio da Luz) 

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