Ronaldo sets up Swiss showdown; France close on WCup place

France's Blaise Matuidi celebrates his goal against Bulgaria during the World Cup Group A match in Sofia, Bulgaria, Saturday Oct. 7. (AP Photo)
France’s Blaise Matuidi celebrates his goal against Bulgaria during the World Cup Group A match in Sofia, Bulgaria, Saturday Oct. 7. (AP Photo)

Geneva (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo scored and helped Portugal win an eighth straight game in World Cup qualifying on Saturday — and still they could fail to qualify.

While Portugal were laboring to beat Andorra 2-0, using their superstar as a substitute, Group B leaders Switzerland secured a 5-2 win over visiting Hungary and ran their own win streak to nine. And the Swiss still could fail to advance also.

It sets up a showdown game in Lisbon on Tuesday that Portugal must win while the Swiss need only a draw to top the group and avoid the playoffs next month.

“If you win nine out of nine and you can still have fear of not qualifying, it’s anyway a bit complicated,” Switzerland captain Stephan Lichtsteiner said.

France’s third-minute goal in Bulgaria was enough for a 1-0 win to retain the Group A lead by one point from Sweden, who earlier routed Luxembourg 8-0.

The third-place Netherlands need a miracle in their final game at home to Sweden on Tuesday, despite winning 3-1 in Belarus.

Belgium already qualified from Group H last month, and won 4-3 in Bosnia-Herzegovina to dent the home team’s chance of claiming a playoffs place as one of the eight best runners-up in the nine European groups.

Here’s what happened Saturday:


France quickly got over the embarrassment of a 0-0 draw last month against Luxembourg, settling the game in Sofia in the third minute.

Blaise Matuidi scored from an Antoine Griezmann pass and Bulgaria failed to reply on a rain-soaked night.

Earlier, Sweden put pressure on the French by routing a now-leaky Luxembourg defence. Marcus Berg got four goals and captain Andreas Granqvist scored from two penalty kicks in an 8-0 rout in Stockholm.

The margin of Sweden’s win effectively ended Netherlands hopes of taking the runner-up spot.

Sweden go to Amsterdam on Tuesday assured of at least a second-place finish on goal difference unless the Dutch win by seven clear goals.

France will win the group if they beat Belarus at home.


Portugal’s tally of 24 points is enough to lead five of the nine European qualifying groups, but not the one they are in.

With an eye on facing Switzerland on Tuesday, Portugal rested Ronaldo and other players for the trip to 144th-ranked Andorra.

After a drab first half, Ronaldo went on and scored in the 63rd minute, then helped create a second for Andre Silva.

Switzerland took advantage of weak Hungarian defending to lead by 3-0 at halftime, set on their way by goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi’s slip in the goalmouth to gift Granit Xhaka an 18th-minute opening goal.

The Swiss cruised to victory but might have concern at poor handling choices by goalkeeper Yann Sommer that let Hungary pull back two second-half goals.

The Faeroe Islands drew at home with Latvia 0-0, and can finish third by winning in Hungary on Tuesday.


Belgium were the first European team to qualify last month and made Bosnia-Herzegovina’s chance even slimmer by winning 4-3 in Sarajevo.

Though Belgium led in the fourth minute, though Thomas Meunier, they trailed twice before Yannick Carrasco scored the decisive goal in the 83rd. Michy Batshuayi and Jan Vertonghen also scored.

Greece rose above Bosnia into the runner-up spot with a hard-earned win at Cyprus 2-1. After trailing, Greece got goals from Kostas Mitroglou and Alexandros Tziolis within two minutes midway through the first half.

Greece host Gibraltar on Tuesday, though risk being the lowest-ranked runner-up and missing the playoffs.

Gibraltar, who previously lost at home to star-studded Belgium 6-0, were beaten by the same score by Estonia on Saturday.