Bernardo Silva has issued an apology to his country after Portugal threw away a 1-0 lead to lose 2-1 to Serbia and drop into the World Cup qualifying play-offs.
Portugal needed just a point to reach next winter’s finals in Qatar and got off to the perfect start through Renato Sanches’ second-minute goal, but Dusan Tadic levelled Sunday’s winner-takes-all qualifier to create nerves in Lisbon.
Portugal thought they had done enough to earn World Cup qualification but Aleksandar Mitrovic headed home a 90th-minute winner to send Serbia through to the World Cup at the expense of the hosts – who now drop into March’s play-offs.
Silva, who was taken off for Bruno Fernandes just after the hour mark in Lisbon, could not find the words to describe Portugal’s display and felt he personally was not up to scratch in terms of an individual display.
“It was a bad game for Portugal. We managed to score the goal early but from then on we stopped playing. I cannot find a great explanation for this, words fail me.
“It was terrible, we have to do much better because we have a play-off in March and we will do our best to qualify. But at home, with 65,000 fans, we had to do much better.
“I apologise to the Portuguese (fans) who watched a game they shouldn’t have watched. The plan was to try to have the ball, we were completely dominated by Serbia. With the quality of our players this is hardly admissible.
“I played a little bit limited, I tried to give my best until the moment came when I thought that another player would be in better conditions.”
Silva played a vital role in Portugal’s opener, winning the ball off Nemanja Gudelj on the edge of the Serbia penalty before finding Renato Sanches who fired home within 120 seconds of kick-off.
But Serbia grew into the match and Dusan Vlahovic struck the post in a warning sign for Portugal, one they did not listen to as Tadic found an equaliser on the half-hour mark by firing through Rui Patricio’s body and into the net.
Both sides continued to apply pressure in the second-half but an onslaught from Serbia in the final 10 minutes proved too much for Portugal, as Mitrovic headed home into the near post just as the clock turned into injury time.