Ronaldo hits 70 int. goals, Dutch stunned in WCup qualifiers
ABS-CBN Sports on Mar 26, 2017 10:16 AM
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring a goal during the World Cup Group B qualifying soccer match between Portugal and Hungary at the Luz stadium in Lisbon Saturday, March 25 2017. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
JOSEPH WILSON, Associated Press
While Cristiano Ronaldo kept moving up Europe's all-time scorers list on Saturday, a demoralizing loss to Bulgaria endangered the Netherlands' World Cup qualification.
With two goals in Portugal's 3-0 win over Hungary, Ronaldo moved into fourth place on the all-time scorers list for European nations.
Ronaldo's 70 in 137 appearances trail only Miroslav Klose (71), Sandor Kocsis (75) and Ferenc Puskas (84).
Here is a look at World Cup qualifiers in Europe:
Teenager Matthijs de Ligt's dream debut for the Netherlands quickly turned into a nightmare as he handed Bulgaria an early goal.
Just five minutes into the match De Ligt let a speculative ball fall over his shoulder before he collided with goalkeeper Jeroen Zoet, allowing Spas Delev to tap in.
Delev made it 2-0 in the 20th when he curled a shot past De Ligt's attempted block and into the bottom corner of Zoet's goal.
Injuries had forced coach Danni Blind to make the risky choice of De Ligt who, at 17, became the youngest Netherlands debutant since Mauk Weber in 1931.
After the stunning loss, the manager took the blame.
"I blame myself," Blind told national broadcaster NOS, adding that, "It can't go on like this. Things have to change."
The Netherlands, which failed to qualify for the European Championship last year, looks likely to struggle to reach the World Cup in Russia.
France stayed on top of the group with 13 points after beating Luxembourg 3-1 thanks to Olivier Giroud's double and a penalty by Antoine Griezmann.
Sweden is second with 10 points after thrashing Belarus 4-0. The Netherlands slid to fourth with seven points, behind Bulgaria with nine.
Ronaldo appears to have found his ideal partner up front for in Andre Silva.
The 21-year-old striker scored Portugal's opener in the 32nd before quickly getting Ronaldo on track.
Ronaldo struck both goals from outside the area, first slashing home a left-footer off Silva's pass, followed by a right-footed free kick from an angle to seal the win in Lisbon.
"We started off slowly, but the first goal gave our confidence a boost and the other goals came naturally," Ronaldo told Portuguese television.
Portugal strengthened its hold on second place with 12 points, opening a gap over Hungary, which stayed with seven points in third.
Switzerland earned a fifth win in as many matches after beating Latvia 1-0 to remain on top of the group with 15 points.
Still stuck at the foot of the table, Andorra nevertheless savored the end to a losing streak that had lasted 58 competitive matches stretching over 11 years after drawing with Faroe Islands 0-0.
Romelu Lukaku saved Belgium's place at the top of Group H, snatching a 1-1 draw in Brussels after being frustrated all night by an unyielding Greece defense. Lukaku chested down the fall and fired past goalkeeper Stefano Kapino with only two minutes of regular time remaining.
Greece finished the game with nine men, but surprised the favorites just 20 seconds into the second half when Costas Mitroglou caught defenders off guard and scored.
Belgium was left with 13 points to Greece's 11.
Bosnia closed to 10 points after a 5-0 rout of Gibraltar with zero points. Estonia and Cyprus have four points each after a 0-0 draw.