Cyprus Mail

Ronaldo deals first blow in playoff, great night for Greece

Almost 84 percent of people around the world say they recognise Portugal's star striker Cristiano Ronaldo

A late flying header from Cristiano Ronaldo gave Portugal a 1-0 win over Sweden in the first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff on Friday.
Ronaldo bravely dived low to meet Miguel Veloso’s cross with an intelligent header in the 82nd minute of a match with plenty of chances for both teams, particularly in the first period.
Sweden had several chances in the first half before Portugal took control after the break in a feisty encounter at the Luz stadium.
The second leg will be played in Stockholm on Tuesday.
In Athens meanwhile, Kostas Mitroglou scored twice in a hectic first half as Greece beat Romania 3-1 in the first leg of their playoff tie at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium.
The Olympiakos Piraeus striker volleyed Greece in front after 14 minutes but the visitors hit back four minutes later via Bogdan Stancu’s header from a clever Gabriel Torje free-kick.
The Greeks retook the lead immediately thanks to Dimitris Salpingidis’ close-range finish, while Mitroglou added a third in the 66th to increase the advantage. Romania’s Costin Lazar was then sent off in stoppage time.
Fernando Santos’ Greece team were well worth the victory that gave them every chance of securing a place in Brazil next year after the return leg against Victor Piturca’s side in Bucharest next Tuesday.
France faced the embarrassing prospect of missing out on a major tournament for the first time in 20 years when they lost 2-0 away to Ukraine in the first leg.
Les Bleus, who last missed a major competition when they failed to qualify for the 1994 World Cup finals, succumbed to Roman Zozulia’s goal shortly after the hour and Andriy Yarmolenko’s late penalty, four days before the return leg at the Stade de France.
France’s Laurent Koscielny and the home side’s Oleksandr Kucher were sent off in injury time as Ukraine took a step towards securing their second World Cup appearance after reaching the quarter-finals in 2006.
France barely had a chance apart from a Samir Nasri effort and were shaken throughout by a bold Ukraine side.

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