Soccer-France in danger, Ronaldo edges Portugal towards finals


By Martyn Herman

LONDON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - France's hopes of reaching the World Cup finals are hanging by a thread after a 2-0 first-leg loss to Ukraine in their playoff on Friday while Cristiano Ronaldo's late winner gave Portugal the edge against Sweden.

Second-half goals by Ukraine's Roman Zozulia and Andriy Yarmolenko plus a red card for France defender Laurent Koscielny made it a woeful night for the visitors who have it all to do in Tuesday's second leg in Paris.

Ronaldo overshadowed Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a match billed as a clash between two of Europe's hottest strikers, pouncing late on a tense night in Lisbon.

The Real Madrid forward put his head where it hurts after 82 minutes to meet a low cross and give Portugal a 1-0 lead and a slender advantage in the race for a ticket to Brazil next year.

Ten-man Iceland's dream of reaching their first major tournament finals lives on after a 0-0 home draw with Croatia in Reykjavic while Greece are well-placed to qualify for the 2014 football carnival after a 3-1 win over visiting Romania.

In Friday's early kickoff, Iceland finished with 10 men after Olafur Skulason was shown a straight red card five minutes into the second half but they hung on stubbornly.

Kostas Mitroglou struck twice for Greece in Athens with Dimitris Salpingidis also on target against the Romanians who had levelled through Bogdan Stancu in the 19th minute.

Many of the countries spared the ordeal of a playoff were also in action as the build-up to next year's tournament begins in earnest.

Former world champions Italy and Germany drew 1-1 in the San Siro where Ignazio Abate grabbed his first international goal for the hosts after Mats Hummels had put the visitors ahead.

An experimental England side were given a jolt at Wembley where Alexis Sanchez scored twice to give Chile a 2-0 victory while Russia were held at home by Serbia. (Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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