European champions Portugal beat Switzerland in Lisbon last night to automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, while France also made sure of their spot at the tournament by winning at home to Belarus.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal began the night in second-place in Group B, needing to take all three points against league leaders Switzerland to seal an automatic spot at the next summer’s tournament.
The Swiss had won all nine of their group stage matches heading into the fixture, but started nervously and were lucky not to concede in the opening stages.
The breakthrough eventually came via an own-goal by the former Arsenal defender Johan Djourou just before halftime, and a goal from striker Andre Silva early in the second half was enough to wrap the game up for Portugal, who have won nine straight matches following their opening 2-0 loss to the Swiss last year.
The result meant that both countries finished with 27 points, but Portugal topped the group on account of their superior goal difference. Switzerland will now drop into the playoffs as one of the four seeded nations.
In the same group, Hungary beat the Faroe Islands 1-0 to finish third, with Latvia beating minnows Andorra 4-0.
Meanwhile, Antoine Griezmann scored one goal and made the other as France beat Belarus 2-1 to top group A.
After strike partner Olivier Giroud hit the crossbar with a close-range header, Griezmann scored in the 27th minute. Three minutes later, he turned provider for Giroud, who held off a defender before slotting the ball into the bottom corner for his 28th international goal.
France finished four points above Sweden, who lost 2-0 to the Netherlands but booked their spot in the playoffs on goal difference. Arjen Robeen scored twice for the Netherlands but his side finished 5 goals behind Sweden, who will be one of the unseeded teams for next week's playoff draw. The 2018 World Cup will be the second consecutive international tournament the Dutch have missed out on.
Elsewhere, Eden Hazard fired Belgium to their fifth straight World Cup qualifying victory, scoring twice in a comfortable 4-0 win over Cyprus. The result saw the country finished top of Group H, with Greece winning by the same scoreline against Gibraltar to finish second.
Greece’s victory meant that Bosnia-Herzogovina’s narrow 2-1 win over Estonia was in vain, with Edin Džeko side missing out on the playoffs by two points.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies