Ronaldo hat-trick fires Portugal to World Cup

17:59 | 20.11.2013
Cristiano Ronaldo's hat-trick booked Portugal's place at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil as the Real Madrid forward ensured Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be watching the tournament on television.After two Zlatan Ibrahimovic goals gave Sweden a 2-1 lead with just 18 minutes left, the 28-year-old scored a quickfire double to turn the tie on its head.Portugal's 3-2 victory in Solna enabled the visitors to qualify as 4-2 aggregate winners."I know Portugal needed me in these matches and I showed I am here," Ronaldo told Portuguese TV afterwards.The hat-trick enabled Ronaldo to become the joint highest scorer for Portugal, level with Pauleta on 47 goals, and to take his recent scoring record to an astonishing 31 goals in 19 games.The tie had been billed as a battle between Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo, and the latter -- who had scored the only goal in the first leg -- was the clear winner by the end.Elsewhere, France qualified for the finals after making history in their 3-2 aggregate defeat of ten-man Ukraine.No European side had ever come back from two goals down to win a World Cup play-off but the 1998 world champions did precisely that when winning 3-0 in Paris.Strikes from Mamadou Sakho and Karim Benzema gave the hosts a two-goal lead before an own goal from Oleg Gusev in the 72nd minute sealed one of World Cup qualifying's most famous comebacks.Didier Deschamps was instantly rewarded when the French Football Federation announced that his contract had been extended by two years, meaning it will now finish in 2016."It was important for French football to be in Brazil next year - when we've got all the ingredients we can do great things," the coach told French television.Croatia, who also enjoyed a memorable 1998 finals when finishing third, booked their place when beating Iceland 2-0 in Zagreb.Bayern Munich striker Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring but he is set to miss the opening match of the World Cup after receiving a straight red card for a reckless tackle.Dario Srna sealed the win against a nation of 330,000 inhabitants, with the visitors having been in contention to become the smallest nation in history to reach the finals.The final European play-off was decided by Greece, who drew 1-1 in Bucharest to qualify as 4-2 aggregate winners against Romania.An early strike by Konstaninos Mitroglou enabled a team that has struggled for goals in this qualifying campaign to comfortably book their place in Brazil.In Africa, Ghana lost 2-1 in Egypt but the quarterfinalists at South Africa 2010 reached their third straight World Cup when winning 7-3 on aggregate.Algeria ensured that the same five African teams that had qualified for the last World Cup will be there again, following the weekend qualifications by Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Cameroon.Trailing 3-2 from last month's first leg in Burkina Faso, the hosts won 1-0 in Blida to qualify on the away goals ruling.Thirty of the 32 teams that will contest next year's World Cup are now known, with the remaining two places being decided on Wednesday.New Zealand are looking to overturn a 5-1 deficit when hosting Mexico, while Uruguay will aim to build on a 5-0 lead when Jordan travel to Montevideo in the very final 2014 World Cup qualifier.On 6 December, the draw to determine the eight groups at next year's World Cup will be held in the Brazilian state of Bahia.(CNN)ANN.Az
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