France win to stay top over Sweden; Ronaldo needed to save Portugal

France win to stay top over Sweden; Ronaldo needed to save Portugal
From ESPN - October 7, 2017

France scored an early goal and hung on to win 1-0 in Bulgaria to stay on pace to finish top of UEFA World Cup qualifying Group A on Saturday night.

It took less than three minutes for France to take the lead as Lucas Digne's low cross found Antoine Griezmann, who laid the ball off for Blaise Matuidi to score from a tight angle.

France lost N'Golo Kante do an apparent hamstring injury in the 33rd minute, and Hungary nearly equalised a few minutes later, only for Hugo Lloris to make a tremendous diving save to deny Georgi Kostadinov.

But France saw out the three points to maintain their one-point lead over Sweden, and Les Bleus can seal their qualification to Russia by beating Belarus at home on Tuesday.

Earlier, Sweden hadkept up the pressure on France with an 8-0 win over Luxembourg.

The hosts took the lead within 10 minutes as Ola Toivonen was fouled in the box by Christopher Martins Pereira and Andreas Granqvist stepped up to slot home. On 17 minutes, Marcus Berg cut inside and hammered home for the second before breaking through and grabbing his second after a rebound off the goalkeeper before half-time.

The forward then bagged his hat trick and, minutes later,Mikael Lustig made it 5-0 beforeGranqvist converted another penalty. Berg had time to pounce for a fourth on his 50th appearance for his country, before being substituted.

Toivonen struck a wonderful volley to make it 8-0 andLuxembourg were embarrassed in their next test following one of their finest-ever results in holding France to a 0-0 draw.

Netherlands needed a late penalty to escape Belarus with a 3-1 win, though their hopes of reaching a playoff spot are practically nil after Sweden's big win.

The Dutch trail Sweden by three points, and although they host the Swedes on Tuesday, the Organjewill need to win by at least seven goals or miss out on a second successive major tournament.

The opening goal came in the 24th minute when Ryan Babel played a cross to the far post for Arjen Robben, who with one touch centred for Davy Proepper to score.

But Hungary equalised 10 minutes after half-time as Sergey Balanovich led a counter-attack and found Maksim Volodko to slot his low shot out of the reach of Jasper Cillessen.

Netherlands left it late but pulled back in front when Nikolai Signevich fouled Bas Dost in the box and Robben converted the resulting penalty, before Memphis Depay found a third goal from a free kick in the waning seconds.

Switzerland maintained their three-point lead over Portugal with one game to play in Group B by cruising past Hungary 5-2.

Ahead of Tuesday's crunch clash in Portugal, the Swiss took the lead in comical circumstances in the 8th minute as goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi lost his footing while preparing to play the ball and Granit Xhaka pounced on the loose ball.

Fabian Frei's deflected shot doubled the lead two minutes later, and Switzerland added a third before the break as Xherdan Shaqiri won the ball back outside the Hungary box and played in Steven Zuber to score.


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