Portugal ended their FIFA World Cup qualifying Group F campaign with a fine 3-0 win against Luxembourg, but it proved immaterial as Paulo Bento's charges were consigned to the play-offs.
To top the standings, Portugal required an eight-goal margin of victory and a loss for Russia in Azerbaijan. The illusion soon faded. Fans at the Estádio Cidade de Coimbra had to wait until the 30th minute for the first goal, scored by Silvestre Varela after Luxembourg had been reduced to ten men, and by then the Russians were already winning. Nani made it 2-0 before the interval and Hélder Postiga settled matters 11 minutes from time.
Shorn of the suspended Cristiano Ronaldo, and with Bento eager to make amends with supporters after Friday's disappointing 1-1 home draw with Israel, it was a much-changed Portugal lineup. With seven minutes played, only three good saves in a row by Jonathan Joubert kept the scores level, as the custodian frustrated Nani, Postiga and João Moutinho. Daniel Da Mota flashed an effort wide at the other end.
Portugal's chances kept coming and Fabio Coentrão headed against the crossbar, but the first goal only arrived after Aurélien Joachim was sent off on 29 minutes. Moutinho's fine pass exploited a shell-shocked defence a minute later, and Varela rounded the keeper to break the deadlock. AS Monaco FC playmaker Moutinho was again to the fore as his back-heeled pass allowed Nani to double the lead soon after. He made it a hat-trick of assists by providing the lay-off for Postiga to beat Joubert from close range late in the second half.
Russia ultimately drew 1-1 in Azerbaijan, meaning Portugal will be one of eight European nations in November's play-offs, the draw for which takes place at 14.00CET next Monday in Zurich.