France in danger, Ronaldo edges Portugal towards finals

Fri Nov 15, 2013 6:51pm EST
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By Martyn Herman

LONDON (Reuters) - France's hopes of reaching the World Cup finals are hanging by a thread after a 2-0 first-leg defeat away to Ukraine in their playoff on Friday while Cristiano Ronaldo's late winner gave Portugal the edge against Sweden.

Ten-man Iceland battled to 0-0 home draw with Croatia in Reykjavic to keep alive their dream of qualifying for a first major tournament while Greece will be confident of finishing off Romania next week after a 3-1 victory in Athens.

Of the eight European nations in the last-chance saloon after missing out on automatic passage to next year's tournament in Brazil, France are the worst placed going into next week's second legs after a miserable night in Kiev.

Second-half goals by Ukraine's Roman Zozulia and Andriy Yarmolenko and a red card for France defender Laurent Koscielny made it a night to forget for Didier Deschamps' side who need a vast improvement in Paris on Tuesday to repair the damage.

"It's obviously a very bad result. We have to believe (we can go through) but Ukraine are the team in the best position to qualify," he said.

France last failed to reach a major tournament in 1994 but Deschamps, who was part of that squad, remained defiant.

"We still have 90 minutes at home," he added.

RIBERY SHACKLED   Continued...

Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko (2nd R) celebrates a goal scored by his team mate Roman Zozulya (not pictured) during their 2014 World Cup qualifying first leg playoff soccer match against France at the Olympic stadium in Kiev November 15, 2013. REUTERS/Konstantin Chernichkin