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World Cup qualifiers

Portugal, France book World Cup tickets, Netherlands eliminated

The Netherlands, finalists in 2010, will not be at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, despite a 2-0 win over Sweden on the night. France booked a ticket, while European champions Portugal scraped in at Switzerland's expense.

Niederlande - Schweden | Robben (picture alliance/dpa/ZUMA Wire/J. Marklund)

Robben bagged a brace in his last appearance for his country

Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud did the damage for France against Belarus on Tuesday, each netting in a 2-1 win to claim the top spot in Group A. Back-to-back wins against Bulgaria and then Belarus ensured France would not have to endure a nail-biting playoff, as in 2010 and 2014.

Frankreich - Weissrussland | Jubel Griezmann (picture alliance/dpa/MAXPPP/P. Lecoeur)

Griezmann and Giroud delivered the goals as France locked out their group

Portugal, meanwhile, beat Switzerland 2-0 to claim outright victory in Group B. Switzerland will have to contest a playoff to make the summer journey to Russia. An own goal from Johan Djourou set Portugal on the right track before Andre Silva put the hosts two up before the hour mark. 

The Netherlands, however, could not salvage their disastrous qualifying campaign against Sweden. Needing an unthinkable 7-0 win, the Dutch managed only two, both from Arjen Robben. Robben's first was perhaps the worst chipped "Panenka" penalty you're ever likely to see, but his sorry scuffed strike still found its way into the net. His second, meanwhile, was far crisper; a first-time shot from the edge of the box into the top corner. Robben, 33, had said the World Up would be his last major tournament for the Netherlands if the Oranje made the cut.

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Icelandic thunderclap will be heard at World Cup 2018

"We knew we didn't have a chance but it was an amazing game," Robben said afterwards. "It hasn't been an easy decision but I am 33 and now must give my full focus to my club." 

The Dutch have now missed back-to-back major tournaments, absent also at Euro 2016. France won the tough Group A including the Netherlands, with Sweden second and the Dutch equal on points in third.

Group H already had a nailed-on winner, Belgium, but Greece's 4-0 win over Gibraltar on Tuesday ensured that they would claim a spot in the playoffs, at the expense of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

msh (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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