World Cup Soccer
 
                 === Ronaldo nods Portugal ahead of Sweden ===
 
 Lisbon,  Portugal (SportsNetwork.com) - Portugal gained a crucial advantage in
 its  World Cup qualifying playoff on Friday as Cristiano Ronaldo's header nine
 minutes from time handed the nation a 1-0 win over Sweden.
 
 The  two  nations were  scoreless for  80 minutes  at the  Estadio da Luz, but
 Ronaldo  provided  the telling  goal when  he headed home  a cross from Miguel
 Veloso in the 81st minute.
 
 Portugal  held  on to the  narrow lead, seeing out  the remaining time to head
 into  Tuesday return  leg  at  the Friends  Arena  with  a one-goal  aggregate
 advantage.
 
 Sweden  was closest  to  breaking  the deadlock  in  the  opening period  when
 Sebastian  Larsson lashed  a shot on goal from  the top of the box in the 20th
 minute that forced a brilliant save from Rui Patricio.
 
 The  visitors  came close  once  again  just  two  minutes later  through  Kim
 Kallstrom's  expertly  taken free kick, which  sailed inches wide of the upper
 corner.
 
 Portugal  regrouped at  halftime and  nearly opened  the scoring  in the  48th
 minute after a scramble inside the six-yard box saw Helder Postiga fail to nod
 home  a delivery  from Nani. Sweden cleared  the ball off the goal line but it
 only went as far as Ronaldo, who lashed a first-time effort over the crossbar.
 
 But  Ronaldo ultimately had the last laugh as he struck in the final stages to
 grant Portugal the goal it so desperately sought. The Real Madrid star drifted
 into  the box and managed to get on the end of a low cross from Veloso despite
 some tight marking, sending a powerful header past Andreas Isaksson from close
 range.
 
 France,  meanwhile, was  not  as fortunate  as Portugal  on  Friday as  Didier
 Deschamps' men dug themselves a massive hole with a 2-0 loss at Ukraine.
 
 Roman  Zozulya opened  the  scoring for  Ukraine at  hour  mark before  Andriy
 Yarmolenko  converted a  penalty  nine  minutes from  time  to seal  Ukraine's
 crucial  victory. Laurent  Koscielny and Olexandr Kucher were issued red cards
 in  stoppage  time for France and  Ukraine, respectively, meaning that the duo
 will miss the return match at the Stade de France on Tuesday.
 
 Also  in UEFA qualifying action on Friday, Greece claimed a 3-1 advantage over
 Romania  thanks  to goals  from Dimitris  Salpingidis and  a brace from Kostas
 Mitroglou  while Iceland kept its hopes of a World Cup appearance alive thanks
 to an impressive 0-0 draw with Croatia.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 11/15 17:06:31 ET

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