23 Nov 2013

France, Portugal qualify for Brazil

6:55 am on 23 November 2013

France have come back from the brink to overpower Ukraine 3-0 in a thrilling playoff return match to qualify for the 2014 football World Cup with a 3-2 aggregate victory.

Oleg Gusev put through his own net in the 72nd minute after Mamadou Sakho had put Les Bleus ahead with his first international goal in the 22nd and Karim Benzema was on target 12 minutes later.

Ukraine had won the first leg in Kiev 2-0, were reduced to 10 men when Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off for a second bookable offence two minutes into the second half.

Meanwhile Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant hat-trick as Portugal survived a second-half scare in their 3-2 second leg win against Sweden to qualify.

The Real Madrid superstar, who scored the only goal in last week's first leg, overcame an equally brilliant display from Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a classic encounter at Solna.

Croatia and Greece also qualified with aggregate wins over Iceland and Romania respectively.

Algeria and Ghana completed the five African qualifiers for next year's World Cup, joining Nigeria, Cameroon and Ivory Coast, who all qualified at the weekend.

England lost at home for successive matches for the first time since 1977 after a first-half header from Per Mertesacker was enough to give an experimental Germany a 1-0 win in a friendly at Wembley.