Manchester City midfielder Bernardo Silva admits he asked to be substituted during their defeat to Serbia.
Sunday night's loss sees Portugal now heading for a playoff in March to reach the 2022 World Cup.
Bernardo admitted he was not up to full match fitness, and that he asked to be substituted when he made way for Bruno Fernandes on 63 minutes.
"I played a little bit limited," he said.
"I tried to give my best until the moment came when I thought that another player would be in better conditions."
He added: "I apologise to the Portuguese [fans] who watched a game they shouldn't have watched. The plan was to try to have the ball, we were completely dominated by Serbia. With the quality of our players this is hardly admissible."