Ronaldo Gives Portugal World Cup Soccer Playoff Win Over Sweden

Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal with eight minutes remaining gave Portugal a 1-0 win over Sweden to open their playoff for a berth in soccer’s 2014 World Cup.

Ronaldo’s header gave Portugal the lead going into the second game in Solna, Sweden, on Nov. 19. Ukraine defeated 1998 champion France 2-0, Greece beat Romania 3-1, and Iceland and Croatia drew 0-0 in last night’s other European matches.

Romania, Croatia and France will also host their return matches Nov. 19, with the winners of the home-and-away series securing the final European places in the 32-team field in Brazil. Twenty-one nations already have qualified, with the remaining 11 spots decided by international playoffs.

The first of five World Cup places from Africa will be filled today as Nigeria takes a 2-1 lead into its second game with Ethiopia and Ivory Coast holds a 3-1 lead over Senegal.

Portugal and Sweden produced very few chances at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon before Ronaldo dived to head Miguel Veloso’s cross past Andreas Isaksson. Ronaldo also hit the crossbar with a header in the 87th minute.

Second-half goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko gave Ukraine the win over France in Kiev. Zuzulya scored in the 61st minute and Yarmolenko clinched the victory with eight minutes remaining on a penalty kick.

Both teams had players sent off in stoppage time. France’s Laurent Koscielny was shown a red card for a tussle with Ukraine’s Olexandr Kucher, who received his second yellow card moments later.

Greece Wins

Kostas Mitroglou scored twice to lead Greece past Romania in Athens.

Mitroglou opened the scoring in the 14th minute and Bogdan Stancu made it 1-1 five minutes later. Dimitris Salpingidis put Greece back in front in the 21st minute and Mitroglou scored again midway through the second half to make it 3-1.

Iceland, playing most of the second half with 10 men, kept alive its bid to become the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup by hanging on to draw with Croatia in Reykjavik. Olafur Skulason received a red card in the 50th minute after taking down Ivan Perisic just outside the penalty area.

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