World Cup Results: Analysis for Portugal vs. Sweden, and All the Day's Matches
Friday saw the first leg of four highly anticipated World Cup qualification play-offs, with Portugal's meeting with Sweden arguably the pick of the bunch.
Elsewhere, the likes of France, Ukraine, Greece and Croatia were all trying to make a huge stride towards next summer's tournament in Brazil.
Click on to discover how all those teams got on, and how each tie sits ahead of the decisive second legs on Tuesday.
(Statistics via WhoScored, GIFs are B/R's own unless stated).
Portugal 1, Sweden 0: Cristiano Ronaldo Gets the Only Goal
Cristiano Ronaldo edged the hotly anticipated battle with Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Friday, as he scored the only goal of the game to give Portugal the advantage in a nicely poised tie with Sweden.
Ronaldo headed home Miguel Veloso's low cross with 10 minutes remaining to ensure the home side received some reward for their slight superiority during the 90 minutes, although Sweden will be far from disappointed with a second leg in Stockholm still to come.
Portugal, meanwhile, might wonder if they could have furthered the advantage—with Ronaldo hitting the crossbar with another header moments after his goal, in a game where Joao Moutinho and Helder Postiga also squandered reasonable openings.
Ibrahimovic, in contrast, had a generally quiet night—allowing Kim Kallstrom to take a free-kick on the edge of the box that flashed narrowly wide, perhaps the visitors' closest strike of the contest.
Nevertheless, the Paris Saint-Germain striker will surely feel hopeful he can make a decisive impact on the second leg of the contest.
"We've got the minimum advantage, but it's better than a draw. It would be better if our lead was bigger," Ronaldo noted to the Associated Press (h/t Sports Illustrated). "We have a big battle in Sweden next week."
On target: 3-2
Pass completion: 84%-58%
Ukraine 2, France 0: Roman Zozulya Tears Visitors Apart as Laurent Koscielny Sees Red
France's World Cup dreams are on the verge of being dashed after they suffered a disappointing but undoubtedly deserved 2-0 defeat to Ukraine on Friday evening.
In the first leg of their play-off encounter in Kiev, a strike from Roman Zozulya and late penalty from Andriy Yarmolenko saw Ukraine build a healthy advantage ahead of the second leg on Tuesday.
Laurent Koscielny—who fouled Zozulya in the build-up to Yarmolenko's goal—was also sent off in the closing stages for a petulant push, creating an additional defensive headache for manager Didier Deschamps ahead of that return contest.
Of moderate consolation might be the fact that Oleksandr Kucher's even later dismissal (for a second yellow card) will cause manager Mykhaylo Fomenko similar difficulties.
Fomenko will be able to deal with that dilemma with the relative confidence afforded him by a two-goal advantage, one his side—and Zozulya in particular—fought manfully to create.
The bustling striker turned home Edmar's through ball after half-time and then won the penalty that doubled the advantage, leaving France needing a remarkable turnaround if they are to prevent Ukraine from being on the plane to Brazil next summer.
"We took a hit today. This was a bad result, but there's a second match and we shall see what happens in that one," Deschamps said, according to the Associated Press (h/t The Charlotte Observer). "We didn't come to play for a draw or just defend."
On target: 4-6
Pass completion: 69%-84%
Greece 3, Romania 1: Kostas Mitroglou Brace Gives His Country Advantage
Two goals from in-form striker Konstantinos Mitroglou put Greece in pole position to qualify for the World Cup on Tuesday, although Romania's away goal in a 3-1 defeat means they have not yet given up hope.
Mitroglou opened and closed the scoring in Athens, with Dimitrios Salpingidis getting the home side's other goal just moments after Bogdan Stancu had restored parity.
An entertaining first half that saw two goals in the space of seven minutes made way for a more circumspect second half, with Mitroglou's 66th-minute goal changing the balance of the contest.
Costin Lazar's 90th-minute dismissal for two late yellow cards was a further blow for Romania, but they will nevertheless feel hopeful they can overturn the deficit on home turf.
On target: 5-1
Pass completion: 80%-80%
Iceland 0, Croatia 0: 10-Man Underdogs Hold on for Draw
The only qualifier of the night not to see a goal came in Reykjavik, as Iceland held on to claim a 0-0 draw against Croatia.
Despite the second-half dismissal of Olafur Skulason, Iceland—who would be the smallest European country ever to reach the World Cup, should they qualify on Tuesday—held on for a 0-0 draw, one that leaves them with real hope of creating history.
Croatia nevertheless had the better of the chances on the night, with Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic perhaps missing the best of them. But a vociferous crowd propelled the home side to the finish line.
On target: 0-6
Pass completion: 65%-86%