Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Ronaldo, Messi head to the World Cup, Sanchez misses out! Here are the 23 teams that have qualified for Russia 2018

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are guaranteed one final crack at lifting the World Cup after their respective countries booked their place to Russia 2018 with victories against their opponents.

European champions Portugal qualified with a convincing 2-0 home win over Switzerland on Tuesday, ending their rivals' perfect record in Group B after an own goal by Johan Djourou set them on their way.

The unlucky Djourou put the ball through his own net four minutes before halftime and Andre Silva sealed the victory in the 57th minute with his ninth goal of the campaign.

The Swiss had led the group since beating Portugal 2-0 in Basel in their opening match in September last year and gone on to win all nine matches before Tuesday's encounter in Lisbon, while Portugal had won their subsequent eight.

Aside from a penalty shootout defeat by Chile at the Confederations Cup in June, the defeat by Switzerland was the only competitive game Portugal have lost since Fernando Santos took over as coach in September 2014.

Ronaldo scored 15 goals in the qualifying campaign and only Poland’s Robert Lewandowski scored more in Europe.

Meanwhile, Lionel Messi put Argentina on his back and carried the team to next year's World Cup finals with one of his greatest ever performances for the country.

With Argentina's Russia hopes in a critical condition after last week's 0-0 draw against Peru, Messi scored a stunning hat-trick as they fought from behind to see off Ecuador 3-1.

Argentina had entered the match outside the qualification spots in South America's notoriously tough 10-team qualifying group.

And within 45 seconds their hopes looked all but over, as Romario Ibarra gave Ecuador - who had no qualification hopes - the lead.

Yet two goals in eight minutes from Messi put Argentina in front; his first came after excellent interplay with Angel Di Maria, before he pounced on some lackadaisical play in the home defence and ruthlessly fired into the roof of the net.

Argentina weren't at their best, unable to control possession or the shape of the game as they would have liked.

But it hardly mattered as the five-time Ballon d'Or winner showed his class with a magnificent third, skinning a defender before a sublime finish past Maximo Banguera.

Sadly,  Alexis Sanchez and Chile won’t be going to the World Cup next year as New Zealand will face Peru for a place in next year’s World Cup after Chile missed qualification in dramatic circumstances.

Chile were third heading into the final day of CONMEBOL qualifying but they paid the ultimate price for a 3-0 loss to Brazil in Sao Paulo.

Argentina’s 3-1 win in Ecuador and Peru’s 1-1 draw with Colombia relegated the Chileans to sixth in the standings, robbing them of a 10th World Cup finals appearance.

Here are the 23 teams that have qualified for Russia 2018.

Russia (Host), Brazil, Nigeria, Spain, England, Costa Rica, Poland, Portugal, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Belgium, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Egypt, Iceland, Serbia, France, Uruguay, Argentina, Colombia, Panama.

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