Portugal boss Fernando Santos explains Cristiano Ronaldo row after World Cup blow

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Cristiano Ronaldo was left furious at Portugal manager Fernando Santos on Sunday after they suffered a shock 2-1 defeat at the hands of Serbia and now face a play-off to qualify for next year’s World Cup. The team have qualified for every tournament since missing out on a place at France 1998.

Renato Sanches had given Portugal the perfect start in Lisbon as he finished well to put his side into the lead after two minutes.

But former Southampton forward Dusan Tadic levelled the scores half an hour later as Serbia sensed an upset.

And the visitors leapfrogged Portugal to secure their place in Qatar as Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic headed into the near corner in the dying moments.

After the final whistle, Ronaldo was distraught and broke down in tears, before appearing to direct his anger at Portgual boss Santos.

As Santos approached his star striker on the pitch after the match, Ronaldo started to shout and gesticulate furiously.

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The duo briefly shook hands before Ronaldo stood with his hands on his hips, while the manager walked away.

But Santos was keen to dismiss the incident.

“Nobody was explaining anything,” Santos said. “He was telling the other guy that there [in Serbia] he had scored a goal at the last minute and that the referee didn’t count [it].

“That’s what he was saying at the time. On the field, he said that we scored a goal there and the referee didn’t, but it’s his outburst – it’s perfectly normal.

“Now no one goes after a game to explain what happened or didn’t happen. I went to raise the players’ heads.”

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Serbia held Portugal to a 2-2 draw at home in March. On that occasion Ronaldo thought he had won it for the visitors as his volley appeared to trickle over the line before the ball was cleared.

The referee deemed the ball didn’t cross the line, however, and Portugal had to settle for one point rather than three.

Despite Sunday’s disappointment, Santos has still made guarantees that Portugal will qualify for the World Cup.

“The truth is that we did not have a good performance overall,” Santos continued.

“Therefore, we have to say sorry. The Portuguese people are obviously sad. Not more than us, but just like us.

“But my team will be at the Qatar World Cup – that is guaranteed.

“We just have to compete in the play-offs which is not common for us.

“Portugal never went through a play-off with me, but they played it on three occasions and qualified for the finals in all of them.”

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