France closing in on World Cup finals spot

Posted October 10, 2017

The penultimate round of European World Cup qualifying came to a conclusion on Saturday, with France, Switzerland and Portugal all ensuring qualification is their own hands, but the Netherlands now need a miracle to have any hope of qualification.

But it now faces a near impossible task, as Sweden thrashed Luxembourg 8-0 earlier on October 7, with forward Marcus Berg scoring four goals, to extend their advantage over Dick Advocaat's men on goal difference to 12.

Les Bleus started brightly and were ahead inside just three minutes through Blaise Matuidi's sweetly struck shot, but they offered nothing in the way of attacking threat in an insipid second-half performance.

It was a nervy performance from the French, who endured long spells of pressure from the Bulgarians and saw N'Golo Kante pick up a hamstring injury after just half an hour, although victory at home to Belarus on Monday will secure their place in Russian Federation.

Hugo Lloris produced a huge save later on to deny Georgi Kostadinov as Bulgaria looked to repeat the famous win over France that sent them to the 1994 World Cup, and Didier Deschamps's men can now seal a spot with three points at home to Belarus on Tuesday. The lead was doubled in the 86th minute by Andre Silva.

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.

Meanwhile, Portugal struggled against Andorra at the Estadio Nacional in Andorra La Vella.

The best eight second-placed teams go through a two-legged playoff.

"Cristiano Ronaldo was decisive for us in this match, but that's why he's the best player in the world".

In Group H, Greece moved above Bosnia and Herzegovina into second place by rallying to defeat Cyprus 2-1.

Zuber then added his second and Switzerland's fourth from 20 yards out early in the second half, and though Hungary were able to get a goal back through Richard Guzmics, Stephan Lichtsteiner made it 5-1 with seven minutes to play before Roland Ugrai added a late second for the visitors.

Goals from Haris Medunjanin and Edin Visca put the Bosnians ahead in Sarajevo after Belgium full-back Thomas Muenier's early strike, but Michy Batshuayi and Jan Vertonghen turned things around.

The first booking of the game came in the ninth minute, when Simeon Slavchev was yellow carded for pulling back Kylian Mbappé.

The other early kickoff in that group saw qualifying rookies Gibraltar suffer yet another thrashing, loosing 6-0 at home to Estonia.

Portugal is now second in their qualifying group behind leaders Switzerland.