Ronaldo treble secures berth, France script grand turnaround
France produced one of soccer's most famous comebacks on Tuesday to scrape into next year's World Cup finals via the playoffs while Portugal blazed through after Cristiano Ronaldo conjured up a sensational hat-trick.sports Updated: Nov 21, 2013 00:26 IST
France produced one of soccer's most famous comebacks on Tuesday to scrape into next year's World Cup finals via the playoffs while Portugal blazed through after Cristiano Ronaldo conjured up a sensational hat-trick.
The two European heavyweights will be joined in next June's finals by Croatia, Greece, Ghana and Algeria after they prevailed in their second leg playoffs.
France had to overturn a 2-0 deficit at home to Ukraine and did so with aplomb, Mamadou Sakho, an offside Karim Benzema and an Oleg Gusev own goal after 72 minutes sending the Stade de France wild as the fans celebrated a 3-2 aggregate triumph.
Ronaldo's stunning treble took Portugal to the 2014 tournament in Brazil after three breakaway goals in a 3-2 win in Sweden completed a 4-2 aggregate success after rival Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to life with his own second-half double.
Ballon d'Or boost for Ronaldo
Ronaldo is now the favorite to win the Ballon d'Or following changes made Wednesday to the voting process. FIFA reopened the deadline and invited voters to switch their preference on the morning after the Portugal forward's hat trick helped his country qualify for the World Cup.
"Votes which had already been submitted can be changed until Nov. 29," FIFA said in a statement. FIFA said the decision was prompted by "a low number of responses" by last Friday's original deadline.
The world's best player in 2013 is chosen by national team coaches and captains, plus a journalist from each of FIFA's 209 member countries.