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France, Portugal reach World Cup

Updated: 2013-11-20 16:01
( Agencies)

France, Portugal reach World Cup

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Sweden during the second leg of their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at Friends Arena in Stockholm Nov 19, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

The irrepressible Cristiano Ronaldo 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 Tuesday 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 European qualification.

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 second-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.

Ronaldo's second international hat trick gave Portugal a 3-2 win at Stockholm and a 4-2 aggregate victory.

"It felt complicated for a moment after they scored," Ronaldo said. "We suffered a little bit and then, well, we scored two more goals."

Ronaldo, who scored in Portugal's 1-0 home win last Friday, scored off a pass Joao Moutinho in the 50th minute.

The 32-year-old Ibrahimovic tied the score in the 68th and put the hosts ahead 2-1 with a free kick three minutes later, leaving Sweden trailing on away goals. Goals by Ronaldo in the 77th and 79th minutes sealed the home-and-home, total-goals series for Portugal, which will be going to its fourth straight World Cup.

Sweden and Ibrahimovic will miss soccer's top tournament for the second straight time.

"Of course I'm disappointed. I wanted to play the World Cup," Ibrahimovic said. "We did our best. Unfortunately, we played against a better team — better than us, no doubt."

It was the 26th professional hat trick for Ronaldo, who has 23 for Real Madrid and one for Manchester United. His first three-goal game for Portugal was Sept. 6 at Northern Ireland.

"It just hurts right now," Sweden coach Erik Hamren said. "It is a dream, an ambition that has died. It's hurting for everyone."

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