Nastasic makes comeback for Serbia in 4-2 defeat to Portugal
Matija Nastasic likely had a different outcome in mind as he made his return to Serbia’s national team. The S04 defender had to accept a 4-2 defeat to Portugal in European qualifying, despite Serbia being able to keep up with the current title holders.
It was a special match for the 26-year-old Royal Blue, as Serbia faced Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. in the famous Rajko Mitíc stadium in Belgrade. After nearly a year and a half, Nastasic was finally called up for international duty once again, after a coaching change last June.
Tough times without being selected
Head coach Mladen Krstajic was replaced by Ljubiša Tumbaković. Ahead of the 2018 World Cup, the former Schalker did not nominate Nastasic for Serbia’s squad. Since then, the relationship between the two has been strained, to the point where the centre-back no longer had a role within the team. Following the change in coaching staff, Nastasic was immediately nominated to the team once more.
“It was very hard to have to follow the national team as a fan and to not be able to help out,” Nastisic told Kicker. However, his first match back was not rewarded with a win. Serbia were up against current title holders Portugal, who brought their best squad with them to Belgrade. Of course, superstar Cristiano Ronaldo also made the trip.
A spectacular closing phase
The match started off a bit slow, as both teams tested each other. The guests were able to capitalise on a mistake from Serbia to take the lead just before the break (42’). After a cross from the right side, goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović punched the ball right into the path of William Carvalho, who just had to tap it in.
Portugal began to dominate during the second half, but failed to create any clear chances on offense. Portugal found success by continuing to pepper the Serbian defense with shots, as Gonçalo Guedes made it 2-0 with a well-placed shot from 14 metres out. Nikola Milenković scored for Serbia 10 minutes later (68’), but was unable to turn the match around.
Cristiano Ronaldo struck what seemed to be the deciding blow with a goal in the 80th minute, but it wasn’t over yet. Serbia continued to press and were rewarded just five minutes later as Aleksandar Mitrović scored to make it 3-2. Portugal responded right away, as Bernardo Silva netted in the 86th minute to bring the final score to 4-2.
With the loss, Serbia slip to fourth place in Group B. On Tuesday (10.9), Matija Nastasic and his teammates will need to score at least three goals against Luxembourg in order to keep their hopes of qualifying for the European Championship alive.