Switzerland extended its perfect record in World Cup qualifying by defeating Latvia 3-0 yesterday for its eighth straight victory, while Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal edged 10-man Hungary 1-0 to stay close at the top of Group B.
With two games left, Switzerland has 24 points, three more than defending European champion Portugal. Third-place Hungary stayed on 10 points and is out of contention.
An Oct. 10 showdown between Portugal and Switzerland in Lisbon will likely decide which team wins the group to automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Three days earlier, Switzerland hosts Hungary and Portugal plays at Andorra.
Earlier, the Faeroe Islands defeated Andorra 1-0 for its second win, securing its best ever qualifying campaign.
Switzerland scored early and twice shortly after halftime to keep alive its impressive run in qualifying.
Forward Haris Seferovic netted his fourth goal in the qualifying campaign with a neat flick from close range, and Blerim Dzemaili and Ricardo Rodriguez added to the lead in the second half.
Portugal kept pace with Switzerland with its seventh straight victory since an opening 2-0 loss to the Swiss.
Andre Silva scored the winner with a header from close range after a cross by Ronaldo just three minutes into the second half in Budapest.
“It was a difficult game from start to finish,” Silva said. “We had to give everything we had. I’m glad I scored the winning goal.”
Hungary played with 10 men from the 30th after Tamas Priskin was sent off for an elbow on Pepe.
“We were always in control, but it was always a difficult and uncertain match,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said.
Gilli Soerensen scored a first-half winner and the Faeroe Islands defeated Andorra 1-0 to guarantee its best qualifying campaign ever.
With two games left, the Faeroe Islands is in fourth place and out of contention for a World Cup berth, but it already has eight points — one more than it achieved ahead of the 2002 World Cup.
Lars Olsen’s team beat Latvia earlier in its campaign, and drew with Andorra and Hungary.
Its final games are against Latvia and at Hungary.
Andorra has four points from a win over Hungary and a draw against the Faeroe Islands. Tales Azzoni, AP Sports Writer, AP
Ronaldo passes pele’s goals tally
Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat trick to move past Pele on the list of all-time international goalscorers as Portugal beat Faeroe Islands 5-1 last week to stay close to Switzerland at the top of Group B in World Cup European qualifying. Ronaldo netted with a neat volley from inside the area then added two other goals to lift his career tally to 78 and surpass the great Pele, who scored 77 for Brazil. On the European list, Ronaldo is now six goals behind Hungary legend Ferenc Puskas. Ronaldo scored twice in the first half and once after the break to reach 14 goals in seven Group B matches. The Real Madrid striker opened the scoring with a side-volley by the far post. “I had been trying to score a goal like this for a long time,” Ronaldo said. “It was the goal that was missing in my career.”
France held by Luxembourg; Belgium qualifies for World Cup
France wasted its chance to move a step closer to World Cup qualification after a 0-0 home draw with Luxembourg that leaves automatic qualification from Group A wide open with two games to go.
Belgium overcame stern resistance from Greece to qualify for Russia 2018, winning 2-1 away from home. Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku’s winning goal put the other Red Devils out of reach at the top of Group H.
There were contrasting emotions afterward for France and Luxembourg.
“We had the chances and didn’t take them,” France coach Didier Deschamps said. “We should have done more.”
But Luxembourg counterpart Luc Holtz could barely contain his delight.
“It’s a historic result,” he said. “Yes, it’s a glorious day for Luxembourg football.”
Sweden moved one point behind France after easing to a 4-0 win away to Belarus, while a selection choice from Netherlands coach Dick Advocaat paid off as midfielder Davy Proepper scored his first two international goals in a 3-1 home win against Bulgaria.
Advocaat’s side is three points behind Sweden with two games remaining and still in with an outside chance of securing a playoff spot.
Elsewhere, defender Domagoj Vida’s header gave Group I leader Croatia a 1-0 win against Kosovo in a match which started Saturday before being called off due to a torrential downpour.
Only the group winners automatically advance in European qualifying for the World Cup.
While France fluffed countless chances, the Netherlands and Sweden had no problem finding the net.
Proepper’s first international goals helped the Dutch keep their slim qualifying hopes alive — albeit four points behind Les Bleus.
Proepper replaced veteran Wesley Sneijder and tapped in from close range in the seventh minute.
Veteran winger Arjen Robben doubled the lead in the 67th minute with his 34th international goal. Georgi Kostadinov pulled back a goal just two minutes later before Proepper sealed the win in the 80th.
On a night for firsts, Christoffer Nyman got his first Sweden goal to make it 2-0 midway through the first half.
Emil Forsberg scored in the 18th and, after Nyman’s goal, striker Marcus Berg popped up with his 14th for Sweden to put the result beyond doubt at halftime.
Center half Andreas Granqvist completed the scoring near the end with a penalty. AP