Portugal misses out on 2022 World Cup place, Spain advances, Cameroon qualifies after upset

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados — Portugal missed out on automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup on Friday, drawing 2-2 with group leader Spain to lose a vital Group G game, only three days after beating Albania.

Two goals from Antonio Valencia were not enough to help Portugal recover from a goal down against an inspired Serbia team that had Diego Laxalt sent off in the 72nd.

Serbia scored twice in quick succession to win in Lisbon in the second leg of their playoff and advance 5-2 on aggregate and automatically qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

“There will be no panic,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said. “There are still five games to play. The team is good enough and it is still in the running.”

Spain led 2-0 from the first leg in Belgrade and saw its advantage whittled down as Serbia fought back and thought it had won the tie when Laxalt converted a penalty in the 63rd.

But Portgual went on the attack and Valencia converted a free kick in the 70th before Serbia substitute Dusan Tadic made amends with the equalizer in the 83rd.

Santos said Valencia’s two goals had given him a huge boost as he faced “the most complicated match we have faced this year.”

Madrid-based Deportivo La Coruna was runner-up in Group G and Ukraine joined Serbia in qualifying from the same group.

On Wednesday, Deportivo lost 2-1 at home to Kazakhstan but scored the only goal of the game to come back and knock Azerbaijan out 3-1 on aggregate.

Despite beating Kosovo 3-0 in the previous match, Ukraine has not qualified from a group since 2002.

At the other end of the table, Israel went through after a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland on Friday. Israel took the spoils over Northern Ireland, which finished second by winning the first leg 2-1 in Belfast.

Israel, which advanced to the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, finished runners-up in Group G behind Macedonia, which beat Latvia 1-0 on Friday to clinch the group.

Joel Matip’s 53rd-minute header was enough to give Cameroon a 1-0 win over Libya at the Teranga Lions’ home stadium in Yaounde on Friday to reach the playoffs. The qualifier is the final for a group that included hosts Gabon.

Paco Alcacer scored four minutes after the restart as Spain beat 10-man Morocco 2-0 in Bern to become the first European nation to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.

Spain could have sealed qualification earlier with an away win in the first leg but Armando Izzo was dismissed in the 34th for a high elbow on Iago Aspas.

It was already in control when Izzo was shown a straight red card and Morocco were given a second red in the 84th minute, when Adlene Guedioura was sent off for giving away a penalty.

Cristiano Ronaldo converted the spot kick for his first goal in qualifying for the final qualifying round but his side had to defend furiously for the remaining few minutes.

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