Messi inspires Argentina with hat-trick against Ecuador
Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia qualified for next year’s World Cup on Tuesday after a dramatic last round of South American matches that also saw Peru clinch a spot in a play-off against New Zealand.
Brazil had already qualified as group winners.
Argentina, finalists three years ago but outside the qualifying spots going into their match against Ecuador, went behind in the first minute but an inspired Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to guarantee his side one of the three automatic qualifying spots still up for grabs.
Uruguay also went behind, to an own goal from Gaston Silva after 24 minutes, but they bounced back with two goals either side of half time to secure second place in the 10-team South American group behind five-time World Cup winners Brazil.
Martin Caceres, Edinson Cavani and two from Luis Suarez gave the home side a commanding lead before Diego Godin’s own goal made it 4-2.
A second-half goal from Paolo Guerrero gave Peru the chance of a first World Cup appearance since 1982 when his brilliant free kick in Lima cancelled out the opener from James Rodriguez.
Peru advanced to a play-off against Oceania champions New Zealand.
Five-times champions Brazil had already qualified before their 3-0 win in Sao Paulo against Chile, who failed to qualify.
Three second-half goals, one from Paulinho and two from Gabriel Jesus, saw the group leaders extend their unbeaten run in the qualifiers to 17 games.
Paraguay also missed out when they lost 1-0 at home to bottom side Venezuela.
Portugal end Swiss winning run
European champions Portugal qualified for next year’s World Cup with a convincing 2-0 home win over Switzerland, ending their rivals’ perfect record in Group B after an own goal by Johan Djourou set them on their way.
With midfielder Bernardo Silva giving one of his best performances for Portugal, the hosts did not even need a goal from captain Cristiano Ronaldo as they pulled level on 27 points with Switzerland and won the group on goal difference.
The unlucky Djourou put the ball through his own net four minutes before halftime and Andre Silva sealed the victory in the 57th minute with his ninth goal of the campaign.
The Swiss had led the group since beating Portugal 2-0 in Basel in their opening match in September last year and gone on to win all nine matches before Tuesday’s encounter in Lisbon, while Portugal had won their subsequent eight.
Aside from a penalty shootout defeat by Chile at the Confederations Cup in June, the defeat by Switzerland was the only competitive game Portugal have lost since Fernando Santos took over as coach in September 2014.
Switzerland will now enter a play-off over two legs with another European group runner-up in November for a place in Russia. The draw for the playoffs will be held next Tuesday.
Ronaldo should have scored his 16th goal of the qualifying campaign when he was sent clear in the 78th minute but he over-elaborated as he tried to get around Yann Sommer and allowed the goalkeeper to claim the ball but the points were already safe.
Panama qualify, Honduras in play-off; US out
A late goal from Roman Torres punched Panama’s ticket to their first World Cup finals with a 2-1 win over Costa Rica, while the United States will miss out for the first time since 1986 after Honduras pipped them to a play-off place.
With Honduras stunning group winners Mexico 3-2, the United States’ 2-1 defeat to Trinidad and Tobago saw them finish fifth in the six-team North, Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) final qualifying round.
Romell Quioto scored the winner in the 60th minute for Honduras, who will now face Australia in a two-leg play-off in November for another ticket to Russia.
Griezmann seals it for France
France's Antoine Griezmann scored one and set up another as they booked their place at next year's World Cup finals by beating Belarus 2-1 at the Stade de France in their last Group A qualifying game.
Griezmann opened the scoring and then set up Olivier Giroud before the break while Belarus reduced the arrears on the stroke of halftime through Anton Saroka.
The result put France, who will take part in their sixth consecutive World Cup finals, on 23 points after 10 games, four ahead of second-placed Sweden.
Four days after a decisive 1-0 win in Bulgaria, Didier Deschamps's team were never really under pressure and avoided having to go through the playoffs, as they had to to reach the 2010 and 2014 finals.
Robben signs off in style for Dutch
Sweden claimed a World Cup play-off spot despite losing 2-0 on Tuesday away to a Netherlands side inspired by Arjen Robben who finished his international career with both goals as the Dutch bowed out.
The Netherlands needed to win by a seven-goal margin to reach the playoffs but finished level on 19 points, behind Group A winners France, with the Swedes second on goal difference.
The home side started brightly in the Amsterdam Arena with a fired-up Robben converting a 16th-minute penalty and then hammering home a superb left-footed shot five minutes before halftime to raise the faint hopes of the home fans.
The Dutch, however, lacked the necessary creativity as Sweden shut up shop in the second half and the match fizzled out, leaving the Netherlands in third place.
Sweden now enter a two-legged playoff next month against one of the other eight best second-placed European sides.
Tuesday's encounter proved to be the last international for Robben who, after 37 goals in 96 internationals, received a standing ovation as he limped through the final minutes.
After the final whistle, the Swedish players went to their changing room to celebrate, leaving the stage free for Bayern Munich forward Robben to say farewell to the Dutch fans.
“We knew we didn’t have a chance but it was an amazing game. It hasn’t been an easy decision but I am 33 and now must give my full focus to my club,” said Robben.
Missing out on the World Cup caps a remarkable demise for the Netherlands, who were runners-up to Spain at the 2010 tournament in South Africa, and third in Brazil in 2014, with Robben again in the side, in a semi-final defeat by Argentina.
They have now missed out on a second major tournament after also failing in their bid to qualify for last year’s European Championship in France.
The opening goal followed a handball by Swedish defender Victor Lindelof, although Robben miscued a cheeky chip from the penalty spot and was fortunate that goalkeeper Robin Olsen had already committed to dive.
Robben's second goal, however, was a sweeping finish after the ball was laid back to him in the Swedish area. It was to be his last in the famous 'Oranje' national team shirt.