Ronaldo shines for Portugal, while Lloris dims French hopes
ABS-CBN Sports on Jun 10, 2017 10:38 AM
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after scoring during World Cup Group B qualifying match between Latvia and Portugal at the Skonto Stadium in Riga, Latvia, Friday, June 9, 2017. (AP Photo/Roman Koksarov)
JEROME PUGMIRE, AP Sports Writer
While Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo continued his electric scoring form, goalkeeper Hugo Lloris dimmed the lights for France with an inexplicably poor error in contrasting fortunes during 2018 World Cup qualifiers on Friday.
Less than one week after scoring twice in Real Madrid's 4-1 win against Juventus in the Champions League final, Ronaldo netted another two in Portugal's 3-0 win at Latvia in Group B. He has 73 goals in 139 appearances for his country.
There was nothing impressive — or justifiable — about the error from Lloris that led to Sweden's winner against France in Group A.
With the score level at 1-1 in a tight match, neither side would have felt aggrieved with a point. Indeed, a draw would have kept France atop the standings and there was clearly no cause for such late urgency from Lloris.
Normally one of the most reliable goalies in European football, Lloris somehow took it upon himself to launch a speculative pass from his penalty area in the random hope of creating a winning goal with only seconds remaining.
The ball landed at the feet of forward Ola Toivonen, who launched it back over Lloris from about 40 meters to move Sweden to the top of Group A, level with France on 13 points.
Elsewhere, unheralded Andorra won its first World Cup qualifier in 13 years.
A win at the Friends Arena in Solna would have moved European Championship runner-up France six points clear of Sweden.
All was going to plan when Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud struck his sixth goal in his last four internationals with a superb swerving shot in the 37th minute.
But Jimmy Durmaz equalized shortly before halftime and Toivonen stunned France at the end, thanks to Lloris' unusual sloppiness.
At the De Kuip stadium in Rotterdam, the Dutch moved up to third place — three points behind co-leaders Sweden and France — by routing last-placed Luxembourg 5-0.
Veterans Wesley Sneijder — on his national record 131st appearance — and Arjen Robben scored in the first half.
Liverpool midfielder Georginio Wijnaldum; Spartak Moscow forward Quincy Promes, and Tottenham striker Vincent Janssen got the other goals.
There could well be a lot of nerves on show when the French host the Dutch at Stade de France on Aug. 31.
In Belarus, Mikhail Sivakou's 33rd-minute penalty and fellow midfielder Pavel Savitski secured a 2-1 win for the hosts against Bulgaria.
Andorra stunned Hungary 1-0 to win its first World Cup qualifier in 13 years, ending a 66-match winless streak in official competitions.
It was only the second win for the small country in qualifying for either the World Cup or the European Championship, and the first since a 1-0 win over Macedonia in October 2004.
Portugal won 3-0 at Latvia, with Ronaldo scoring twice, while Switzerland remained three points clear at the top with a 2-0 victory at the Faeroe Islands.
Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri scored for Switzerland, which has 18 points from six matches.
Dries Mertens led Belgium to a 2-0 victory over Estonia to give it a dominant position after closest challengers Greece and Bosnia-Herzegovina played out a 0-0 draw that was marred by a brawl after the game.
Napoli's Mertens scored in the first half and West Bromwich Albion midfielder Nacer Chadli scored. Estonia played with 10 men for the second half after Artjom Dmitrijev was sent off for a high tackle on Manchester United midfielder Marouane Fellaini in the 44th minute.
Belgium has 16 points from six games and holds a four-point lead over Greece, while third-place Bosnia has 11 points.
In the other game, Cyprus beat Gibraltar 2-1.