In a scintillating final 24 hours of World Cup qualifiers, congratulations go to Portugal, France, Greece, Croatia, Algeria and Ghana who booked their tickets to World Cup 2014 tournament after qualifying via the playoffs:
The six countries will be among the 32 who’ll play in Brazil next summer to try to be crowned the best in the world.
Here’s a recap of today’s matches:
Sweden vs Portugal
“To think there’s a discussion about who is the greatest player in the world right now,” said ESPN commentator Taylor Twellman who beautifully summed up Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance for Portugal against Sweden in today’s World Cup playoff, second leg.
In a brilliantly entertaining match, Portugal took the lead after Ronaldo scored a goal on a counter attack, to put Portugal 2-0 up on aggregate. However, Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored two quick goals to make it 2-1 to Sweden, but 2-2 on aggregate. If the scores stayed the same, Portugal would advance on the away goal rule. But while soccer fans around the globe were salivating over the spectacle of seeing Sweden score another goal to send Portugal crashing out of the World Cup playoffs, Cristiano Ronaldo turned on the jets and scored a goal on the counter attack that made even Ibrahimovic applaud the goal because of the brilliance of it.
Ronaldo’s got another goal just minutes later to make it a hat trick on a golden night for Ronaldo and Portugal.
Portugal won the game 3-2 on the night, and 4-2 on aggregate.
France vs Ukraine
In the first leg between the two countries on Friday, Ukraine won the match 2-0 in convincing fashion. Such was the manner of the defeat that a poll in France that was conducted this past weekend showed that 84% of the French public had given up on the team’s chances for qualifying for World Cup 2014.
But while the French public gave up, the team certainly didn’t as they strolled to a 3-0 victory to qualify for Brazil. Despite the win, the scoreline could have been more emphatic if France was able to capitalize on their numerous chances to score.
Romania vs Greece
Going into the game, Greece had a 3-1 lead from their first leg, so when Kostas Mitroglou broke the offside trap and beat Tatarusanu to make it 1-0 to Greece (and 4-1 on aggregate), the Greece side were sitting pretty.
Romania pulled a goal back to make it 1-1 (after an unfortunate own goal by a Greek defender). But the draw was more than enough to help Greece reach Brazil 2014.
Croatia vs Iceland
The fairytale story of the Iceland national soccer team’s dreams of reaching a World Cup for the first time came to a crashing end after Croatia went on to win the match 2-0 (and 2-0 on aggregate, after the 0-0 draw between both sides last week).
Croatia scored their goals through Mario Mandžukić and Darijo Srna.
Algeria vs Burkina Faso
Out of all of the playoff matches in Africa, this two-legged series was the most entertaining. Burkina Faso surprised everyone with a 3-2 victory in the first leg, but the nation was unable to get a goal in Algeria, as the Algerians won the second leg 1-0.
With the scores tied 3-3 on aggregate, Algeria advanced due to the away goal rule.
However, it could have been a different story for Burkina Faso. Algeria almost scored an own goal, but the ball hit the post. If the ball had gone into the net, the own goal would have sent Burkina Faso to the World Cup for the first time in their history.
Egypt vs Ghana
American coach Bob Bradley’s dreams came crashing down earlier today. Despite a 2-1 victory against Ghana in the second leg, Egypt lost 7-3 on aggregate in front of a packed crowd in North Africa.
It would have been a miracle if Egypt could have overcome their demoralizing 6-1 defeat from last week in the playoff first leg. But while Egypt played much better today, the Pharoahs weren’t clinical enough in front of the net. Still, Bradley (who will likely step down from his post as manager) and the Egyptian nation can keep their heads held high at an improved performance today.
New Zealand vs Mexico
Mexico defeated New Zealand 4-2 last night (and 9-3 on aggregate) to qualify for World Cup 2014.
After a disastrous qualifying campaign, El Tri finally clinched it after sacking several coaches to get the reaction they needed from its players.
Remaining World Cup Playoff
Similarly to Mexico, Uruguay convincingly won its first leg match, 5-0, putting the South American team in the driving seat to qualify for Brazil.
Programming note: Some of the games are being shown exclusively on beIN SPORT, beIN SPORT Espanol and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to beIN SPORT, you can access those channels via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Read our review of DishWorld. And sign up for DishWorld via their website.