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Rediff.com  » Sports » 2018 World Cup qualifiers: Ronaldo fires Portugal, France lose

2018 World Cup qualifiers: Ronaldo fires Portugal, France lose

June 10, 2017 17:29 IST

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal against Latvia in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying European Zone,  Group B match in Skonto Stadium, Riga, Latvia on Friday 

IMAGE: Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring their first goal against Latvia in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying European Zone, Group B match in Skonto Stadium, Riga, Latvia on Friday. Photograph: Kacper Pempel/Reuters

France tasted a dramatic 2-1 defeat in Sweden on Saturday after the latter snatched victory with an Ola Toivonen goal from the half-way line in extra time.

A poor clearance from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris saw the fall of the French, AFP reported.

The freak goal sent the massed ranks of yellow clad fans in Stockholm into a wild frenzy, but more importantly with four games to go it sent Sweden top of Group A, level on 13 points with France.

Only the winners of each group are guaranteed a place at next year's finals in Russia, with the eight best second-placed sides competing in the play-offs.

The French will now play a crucial tie on August 31 against the Netherlands, who remain in the running after thrashing Luxembourg 5-0, while Cristiano Ronaldo led Portugal's 3-0 triumph in Latvia.

For Deschamps's side it was the first defeat in qualifying and they next face a tough test against the Netherlands in Paris.

Veterans Arjen Robben (21) and Wesley Sneijder (34) laid the groundwork for a Dutch victory in coach Dick Advocaat's first game in charge.

In the second half Georginio Wijnaldum (62) and Quincy Promes (70) scored with Vincent Janssen, adding a penalty six minutes from time.

In Group B, Switzerland remain top after beating the Faroe Islands 2-0, thanks to their stars Granit Shaka (36) and Xerdan Shaqiri (59), and are three points ahead of Portugal, the reigning European champions, who beat Latvia thanks to another Ronaldo goal scoring display.

The Real Madrid star was decisive with two goals (41 and 63) and an assist for André Silva to score the third (67).

The surprise result of the group was the defeat of Hungary against modest Andorra (1-0), leaving the Central European side virtually outside the World Cup.

Switzerland and Portugal will play the first place of the group, which qualifies directly for Russia-2018, and the second will have settle for a playoff.

In group H, Belgium took a big step towards qualifying by beating Estonia 2-0 with goals from Dries Mertens (31) and Nacer Chadli (86). Bosnia and Greece, the two teams pursuing

Belgium, played out a goalless draw.

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