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Unstoppable Ronaldo fires Portugal to Brazil

ESPN staff
November 19, 2013 « Selby edges Maguire to book semi-final spot | Chartbeat test »
Watch Ronaldo's stunning hat-trick

Cristiano Ronaldo notched a hat-trick as Portugal booked a spot in Brazil, while France became the first team to ever come back from a two-goal deficit in a World Cup play-off at the expense of Ukraine.

Leading 1-0 after the first leg in Lisbon, Portugal travelled to Stockholm knowing an away goal against Sweden would put them in a commanding position.

And five minutes into the second half Ronaldo, who scored the winner in Friday's meeting, broke the deadlock as he raced clear and fired home.

On 68 minutes, though, Sweden were given hope when star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed in, before the Paris Saint-Germain striker blasted in a low free kick four minutes later.

But the home team's hopes were ended when Ronaldo netted his second of the game with his left foot from a tight angle and then completed his hat-trick with another superb finish as Portugal sealed a 3-2 win on the night.

The goals were Ronaldo's 29th, 30th and 31st of the season for club and country - a remarkable feat considering it's not even December yet. Not only that, he is now Portugal's joint top goalscorer of all time with Helder Postiga.

The result also means next year's World Cup will be the first finals without a Scandinavian side since 1982.

Mamadou Sakho is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring an unlikely winner © Getty Images
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France fought back from two goals down against Ukraine to seal their place at next year's finals thanks to unlikely two-goal hero Mamadou Sakho.

After suffering a 2-0 loss in the first leg in Kiev, France faced an uphill task in Paris - and coach Didier Deschamps reacted by making a number of changes, including the selection of Sakho.

And on 22 minutes his faith was rewarded when the Liverpool defender followed up from close range to make it 2-1 on aggregate.

Karim Benzema, selected ahead of Olivier Giroud, then put France 2-0 up on the night, although in controversial circumstances as he was in an offside position.

Ukraine then had Yevhen Khacheridi sent off for a second yellow card, before France completed the turnaround with 18 minutes left thanks to Sakho.

Earlier in the day, Iceland failed to become the smallest nation to ever qualify for a World Cup when they went down 2-0 in Croatia.

Mario Mandzukic scored but was then sent off, all within the first half, and Darijo Srna netted a second early in the second period.

Iceland could find no way back and a 2-0 scoreline was enough to see Niko Kovac's side to Brazil.

Elsewhere, Greece finished off the job they started in Athens last week as a 1-1 draw with Romania on Tuesday night carried them safely through.

Holding a 3-1 advantage from the opening leg, Fernando Santos' men arrived in Bucharest looking to wrap up the tie and they all but achieved that with a first-half strike from Konstantinos Mitroglou.

A bizarre own goal from Vasileios Torosidis early in the second half pulled Romania level on the night, but there was to be no dramatic comeback as Greece booked their ticket to Brazil 4-2 on aggregate.

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