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International Updates: Ronaldo scores a brace; Varane helpless for France

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Ronaldo and Varane both featured in today’s World Cup Qualifiers

Sweden v France - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Nils Petter Nilsson/Ombrello/Getty Images

Sweden 2 - 1 France

(Jack Hazzard)

It was Sweden, not France, who came out on top in Friday’s World Cup Qualifying match.

From the initial whistle, it looked as if Sweden was in complete and dominant control of the game. Making a plethora of attacks and controlling most of the possession. The host country, who was without their star forward Zlatan Ibrahimović, put in a complete and capable performance.

Real Madrid’s French center back Raphael Varane played the complete 93 minutes in his country’s 2-1, loss. Varane played a huge role in France’s one and only goal. The Real Madrid defender nudged right-back Djibril Sidibe’s cross to striker Olivier Giroud, who smashed an unbelievable volley into the upper corner of Sweden’s goal.

France would only hold onto their lead for six minutes until Swedish winger Jimmy Durmaz scored another terrific goal of his own. The Toulouse midfielder was handed the ball in France’s box after a blown header by Blaise Matuidi and dismal coverage by Demetri Payet. Upon settling the cross, Durmaz struck a volley using his weak foot right past French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.

The second half would result in somewhat of a snooze fest. Little to no action occurred except a few breakaway chances for both sides that inevitably ended with a smart foul by the opposition. French star Antoine Griezmann left midway through the second half for Kylian Mbappe, but the AS Monaco star was unable to dig up any chances.

As the final seconds of the match stroked by, Lloris handled the ball outside of his own box and launched up forward, right into the feet of Sweden’s Ola Toivonen. With Lloris out of his goal and Toivonen on the half line with an open goal in front of him, the Swedish midfielder decided to take a swing, resulting in one of the top international goals of the week.

France’s loss to Sweden sees them drop to second in Group A of the UEFA World Cup Qualifying first round. Sweden now remains on top with 13 points and a goal differential of +8; whereas, France has 13 points as well but only a +6 goal differential.

As for Varane, it was an unfair night. The Real Madrid defender played a solid game but it was inevitably his teammates who let him down. From a blown header to a goof from his goalkeeper, there wasn’t much Varane could have done. The French defender even helped his side with their one and only goal.

Statistically, Varane played the full 90 minutes, converting an impressive 100% tackle conversion rate by winning five tackles in five duels. The French center back also completed one interception and completed 85% of his 65 passes.


Latvia 0 - 3 Portugal

(Naguib Anam)

Football just doesn’t seem to end for the highest goal scorer for both club and country among active players. Cristiano Ronaldo, while still not over his hang over of Real Madrid’s 12th Champions League Title and his fourth as a player, was called up for Portugal’s world cup qualifier against Latvia.

While Portugal coach, Santos, included the charismatic Real Madrid talisman, he excluded another stalwart in Pepe courtesy of his rib injuries. Santos will be hoping that he can include Pepe for the upcoming matches in the Confederation’s Cup starting next week.

On paper, Cristiano Ronaldo and his merry men, in Portugal’s Green away kit, were expected to demolish the Latvian side. They did just that, but the story in the initial few minutes tell a different story altogether.

Right off the bat, Portugal were given a run for their money to be in the game by a Latvian side who were on a five-match losing streak coming into this game. The home side were the better side, but were unable to effectively test Portugal’s shot stopper Rui Patricio.

The confident Lativan side looked to call all the shots, though Ronaldo’s strike from 25 yards helped increase Portugal’s momentum and was easily the best moment of the game as of then.

The first half of the game also saw numerous challenges on the Portugal side; especially their captain Cristiano Ronaldo. After seeing most of them go unpunished, an already furious Ronaldo seemed to have had lost his temperament with Romanian referee Istvan Kovacs. Any other day, the Portuguese captain would have surely have been booked for excessive dissent.

Ronaldo wasn’t furious for much longer as Andre Gomes’ cross was met by Jose Fonte’s header which hit the post and fell into Ronaldo’s path, and he headed it in and celebrated his 601st career goal.

Portugal started the second half in dominating fashion. Their captain’s goal had opened the floodgates and it was all Portugal from thereon. Better passing came from the visitors and Ronaldo attempted twp more shots on goal — both managed by Latvian shot stopper Vannis.

As Latvia started to crumble, Ronaldo scored his second as he got himself in the right place at the right time as he often does. After Quaresma’s deflected right sided cross landed on the path of the Real Madrid Talisman, he made it 2-0 for Portugal.

The third and final goal arrived just minutes later as Latvia misplaced the ball and Porto’s Andre Silva played a one-two with Ronaldo and finished the play with relative ease to kill an already dead Latvian side.

Cristiano Ronaldo recorded nine shots against Latvia, out of which seven were on target. Ronaldo completed 100% of his dribbles (5/5) and recorded a passing accuracy of 90%.

Portugal still find themselves in the second position following Switzerland’s victory over Faroe Islands. Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates now look forward to the Confederation’s Cup which commences on the 17th of June.

Portugal must consider themselves blessed to find their Captain at the top of his powers after enduring a physically and mentally exhausting footballing season.

The Confederation’s Cup allows the Real Madrid Ace another opportunity to add to his International trophy cabinet and needless to say he will do everything in his power to make it happen.