Paris: Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice to take his tally in the World Cup qualifiers to 11 goals as Portugal won 3-0 against Latvia to keep pace with Group B leaders Switzerland who beat the Faroe Islands 2-0, with goals from their Premier League stars Granit Xhaka (36) and Xerdan Shaqiri (59).
In keeping with his great season finale, the Real Madrid star was decisive with two goals (41 and 63) and an assist for André Silva to score the third (67).
Ronaldo has scored 18 goals in his last eleven matches and after guiding Real Madrid to the La Liga-Champions League double will try to extend his trophy collection with the Confederations Cup from June 17 to July 2.
The surprise result of the group was the defeat of Hungary against modest Andorra (1-0), leaving the Central European side virtually outside the World Cup.
Switzerland and Portugal will play for the first place of the group, which ensures direct qualification for Russia-2018, and the second will have settle for a playoff.
In group H, Belgium took a big step towards qualifying by beating Estonia 2-0 with goals from Dries Mertens (31) and Nacer Chadli (86). Bosnia and Greece, the two teams pursuing Belgium, played out a goalless draw.
Meanwhile, France complicated their task of ensuring automatic qualification to next year's World Cup in Russia after falling to a dramatic 2-1 defeat in Sweden on Saturday.
Sweden snatched victory with an Ola Toivonen goal from the half-way line in extra time after a poor clearance from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
The freak goal sent the massed ranks of yellow clad fans in Stockholm into a wild frenzy, but more importantly with four games to go it sent Sweden top of Group A, level on 13 points with France.
Only the winners of each group are guaranteed a place at next year's finals in Russia, with the eight best second-placed sides competing in the play-offs.
The French will now play a crucial tie on August 31 against the Netherlands, who remain in the running after thrashing Luxembourg 5-0.
Veterans Arjen Robben (21) and Wesley Sneijder (34) laid the groundwork for a Dutch victory in coach Dick Advocaat's first game back in charge.
In the second half Georginio Wijnaldum (62) and Quincy Promes (70) scored with Vincent Janssen, adding a penalty six minutes from time.
"We have the means to cause a surprise in Paris, the group has found a positive dynamic, we will go there to win against the Bleus," said a defiant Robben.
Advocaat, who started his third stint as Oranje coach this week, was also confident.
"Of course we are capable of winning in France, the players will be ready, I have a good feeling," he said.
Published Date: Jun 10, 2017 11:06 am | Updated Date: Jun 10, 2017 11:06 am