Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 20th 2013 Contents A50
Guardian www.guardian.co.tt Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The irrepressible Cristiano Ronal-
do grabbed a dazzling hat-trick to
qualify Portugal for the 2014 World
Cup finals at the expense of Zlatan
Ibrahimovic s Sweden, while France
also advanced via the playoffs yes-
terday by conjuring a remarkable
turnaround against Ukraine.
However, there was disappointment
for tiny Iceland, which failed to become
the least populous nation to reach
football s biggest stage after losing to
Croatia on a thrilling final night of
Ronaldo emerged triumphant in his
personal duel with fellow superstar
Ibrahimovic, whose brace in Stockholm
was in vain as the Real Madrid forward
scored three brilliant goals in 29 sec-
ond-half minutes for a 3-2 victory.
Portugal won 4-2 on aggregate.
France overturned a 2-0 deficit to
Ukraine by winning 3-0 in Paris, while
Greece also qualified for Brazil.
After a hesitant first half in which
Ronaldo missed several scoring
chances, the much-awaited contest
between two of the biggest names in
world football --- Ronaldo and Zlatan
Ibrahimovic --- finally burst into life
in a spectacular second half.
Five minutes after the break, Ronal-
do opened the scoring, set up by a
superb long pass by Joao Moutinho.
Ibrahimovic equalised for Sweden
with a header from a corner in the
68th minute. Three minutes later,
Sweden won a free kick just outside
the penalty area and Ibrahimovic fired
home a fierce low shot to give the
home team a 2-1 lead and raise a
nation s hopes of qualification.
However, the home fans among the
nearly 50,000 spectators didn t get to
cheer for long.
As Sweden pushed forward in
search of a third goal and a 3-2 lead
on aggregate, its defense became vul-
nerable to the counterattack.
And Ronaldo, who scored the only
goal in last Friday s first leg in Lisbon,
made the home side pay.
Latching on to a pass by Hugo
Almeida, Ronaldo raced through to
equalise with a clinical finish in the
77th minute. He brought up his hat-
trick just two minutes later --- this
time collecting a defense-splitting
pass from Joao Moutinho --- and could
even added to his goal tally later.
"It just hurts right now," Sweden
coach Erik Hamren said.
France rediscovered its confidence
in a 3-0 win over Ukraine to overturn
a first-leg deficit and reach the World
Cup against all expectations.
Although Ukraine played most of
the second half with 10 men, France
was already leading 2-0 by then after
goals from Mamadou Sakho and
Trailing 2-0 after the first leg of
their playoff, France opened the scoring
with Sakho s first international goal
and Benzema finished from close range
in the 34th.
Ukraine went down to 10 men when
fullback Yevhen Khacheridi was red-
carded for fouling Franck Ribery in
the 47th and France sealed qualifica-
tion in the 72nd minute when subsitute
Oleg Gusev turned a cross into his
own net under pressure from Sakho.
There were delirious scenes at the
end as France players rushed off the
bench and the Stade de France cel-
Bullied all night in Kiev last Friday,
the French responded brilliantly in a
performance full of bravery, panache
"It s the magic of football. Four days
ago we were bad, very bad," France
coach Didier Deschamps said.
"Tonight the players were present and
I had no doubt they would be."
The players, under intense pressure
in the build-up to the game, grabbed
flags and sprinted around the field in
jubilation as France avoided the
embarrassment of failing to qualify
for a major tournament for the first
time in 20 years.
Giroud grabbed a microphone and
got the crowd singing along to the
national anthem as pent-up emotions
were well and truly released.
"It was a great, great game. It was
important for French football to be in
Brazil and we will be," Deschamps
said. "When we ve got all the ingre-
dients, we can do great things."
Ten-man Croatia quashed Iceland s
hopes of reaching football s showpiece
tournament for the first time with a
Striker Dario Mandzukic scored the
opener in the 22nd minute but was
given a red card nine minutes later
for a reckless tackle and left Croatia
with 10 men for the remainder of the
match. But the home team maintained
its attacking dominance and Darijo
Srna made it 2-0 in the 47th.
The defeat ended Iceland s bid to
become the smallest nation --- in terms
of population --- to reach the World
Cup finals. Croatia, a semifinalist in
1998, qualified for its fourth World
Cup since becoming an independent
state in 1991.
Last Friday in Reykjavik, Iceland
overcame the second-half red card of
Olafur Skulason to hold on for the 0-
0 draw against Croatia, keeping the
Nordic nation in contention for a spot
at Brazil in 2014.
Yesterday's International scores
Romania 1 Greece 1
Croatia 2 Iceland 0
Sweden 2 Portugal 3
France 3 Ukraine 0
England 0 Germany 1
Norway 0 Scotland 1
Poland 0 Rep Ireland 0
South Africa 1 Spain 0
Netherlands 0 Colombia 0
Austria 1 USA 0
Belgium 2 Japan 3
Ronaldo sends Portugal to World Cup
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring his side's third goal during
the World Cup qualifying playoff second leg soccer match between Sweden
and Portugal in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday. AP PHOTO
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