For much of the match against Israel on Friday night, it seemed Portugal were still in the running to qualify directly for Brazil. Ricardo Costa scored in the 26th minute, and had Portugal managed to run out the clock and get all three points, they would have remained just one point behind Russia. With their final match against last-placed Luxembourg, and Russia facing fourth-place Azerbaijan, Portugal would have still had hope of avoiding the playoffs.
Instead, an error by goalkeeper Rui Patricio allowed Eden Ben Basat to slot in a goal in the 85th minute. At that point, A Selecção had a feeling a loss was out of reach. By injury time, Portugal knew wouldn’t be able to overcome Russia’s seven point advantage on goal difference. The playoffs were a certainty, thus rendering the final match against Luxembourg obsolete.
That makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s booking seem rather suspicious. Or perhaps fortuitous? The Real Madrid forward was shown a yellow card in injury time for protesting, meaning he’ll miss Tuesday’s match — and be available for next month’s playoffs. Pepe, too, picked up a card and will miss the Luxembourg game.
When questioned about whether the booking was deliberate, Ronaldo refused to confirm whether or not it was intentional. The forward said, “”I can’t talk about that [booking]. Fifa is always very attentive to those situations.”