ZURICH: A dramatic night of World Cup qualifying action saw Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Lionel Messi’s Argentina seal their places in the finals next year but the United States and South American champions Chile miss out.
Portugal reached Russia with a 2-0 win over Group B runners-up Switzerland while France topped Group A by defeating Belarus 2-1 but there was no such luck for the Dutch.
They won their concluding qualifier 2-0 at home to Sweden but it was the latter who finished second in Group A to enter the playoffs. Holland finished third with two goals from Arjen Robben who announced his national team retirement after the game.
He said: “I wanted to show one more time all the things that I can do.”
Robben scored 37 times in 96 appearances for Holland and helped them reach the 2010 World Cup final where they lost 1-0 to Spain after extra-time. The Dutch also progressed to the last four at the 2014 finals before losing to Argentina on penalties.
In South America Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia qualified for the finals while Peru clinched a playoff spot against New Zealand.
Argentina, finalists three years ago but outside the four qualifying spots going into their match in Ecuador, fell behind in the first minute but a Lionel Messi hat-trick guaranteed his side a 3-1 win and one of the three automatic berths still up for grabs behind Brazil.
Uruguay also went behind at home to Bolivia, to an own goal from Gaston Silva after 24 minutes but Martin Caceres, Edinson Cavani and two Luis Suarez strikes gave the home side a commanding lead before Diego Godin’s own goal completed the scoring in a 4-2 win.
A second-half goal from Paolo Guerrero kept Peru in with a chance of a first World Cup appearance since 1982 when his brilliant free kick in Lima cancelled out Colombia’s opener from James Rodriguez
Peru, unbeaten in their last six qualifiers under Argentina manager Ricardo Gareca, failed to secure the win that would have ensured automatic qualification but have the consolation of a home-and-away playoff against Oceania champions New Zealand.
Five-times champions Brazil had already qualified before their game against Chile in Sao Paulo but a 3-0 home victory saw the visitors drop from third to sixth in the standings, failing to even qualify for the inter-continental playoff.
The result marks the end of a brilliant run by the Chileans, who won the last two Copa America tournaments in 2015 and 2016 and qualified for the last two World Cups.
Paraguay also missed out after they lost 1-0 at home to bottom side Venezuela when a victory would have seen them clinch the playoff berth instead of Peru.
In the CONCACAF showdowns the United States will be absent from the finals for the first time since 1986 next year after a humiliating 2-1 defeat at the hands of Trinidad & Tobago in Couva.
The Americans entered the Ato Boldon Stadium needing only a win of any sort over the bottom team in the CONCACAF final qualifying group to punch their ticket to Russia.
But two first-half goals – an Omar Gonzalez own goal in the 17th minute and an Alvin Jones effort 20 minutes later – proved too much for the Americans to overcome despite Christian Pulisic’s strike after the break.