Danny Makkelie, a Dutch referee, apologized to Portugal’s team and Cristiano Ronaldo for denying them a winning goal in the World Cup qualifier last week. The ruling in question turned the match with Serbia into a 2-2 draw.
The controversy started as Serbia’s defender, Stefan Mitrović, tried to clear the ball in stoppage time, but it had already crossed the line. Makkelie ruled otherwise, as there was no VAR or goal-line technology to provide more clarity. Ronaldo threw a fit in response, influencing his teammates as well. Makkelie promptly apologized for his mistake after the game.
The referee didn’t do it in time to avoid Ronaldo’s outpouring of frustration on Instagram, though. His post read: “There are moments which are tough to digest especially when we feel the entire nation is being punished. We will keep our heads up and move on to the next challenge.” He also threw his captain’s armband to the ground before storming off the field; it’s currently being auctioned for charity.
On the other hand, Fernando Santos, the Portugal team’s coach, was very gracious about the error. However, he also stated that the lack of VAR at this level of competition was unacceptable. Setting up VAR systems at all 55 stadiums included in the championship was previously considered unnecessary. Unfortunately, the Rajko Mitić Stadium in Belgrade was one of them, allowing for such a mistake to occur.
During the press conference, the Portugal coach was asked about possible repercussions for such behavior and whether Ronaldo will continue to lead the team after such explosive behavior.
Santos replied: “He is a great example to everyone; he has always been and will continue to be. It was a moment, a moment of frustration, that’s all.” He also stated that Ronaldo would continue to lead the team, despite becoming somewhat famous for his tantrums at this point. Fortunately, his displays of outrage are never disrespectful to the point of warranting repercussions.
With the 2-0 lead for Portugal in the first half, the team’s victory seemed set in place; however, Serbia leveled the playing field in the second half, throwing Portugal’s team off its game. The result was an unfortunate draw, leaving both teams with four points. Currently, Serbia is leading the group, with Portugal just under, and Luxembourg in third place with three points thanks to its victory over Ireland.
Portugal will be back in action on Tuesday as they travel to face Luxembourg’s team on their home turf for the Group A World Cup qualifier.