Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick bested Zlatan Ibrahimovic's brace as Portugal defeated Sweden to reach the World Cup. France, Croatia and Greece also secured places in Brazil in the final evening of European qualifiers.
It is Cristiano Ronaldo, not Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who will have the chance to make his mark on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The Real Madrid superstar scored three goals at the Friends Arena in Stockholm in Portugal's 3-2 win over Sweden.
Already ahead leading 1-0 on aggregate through Ronaldo's goal in the first leg, Portugal had the advantage going into Tuesday's match. That advantage doubled when Ronaldo finished off a counterattack just after half time to make it 1-0.
But Sweden are a team known for comebacks of late, and comeback they did. Ibrahimovic headed in a corner in the 68th minute to make things level, and his low free kick under the wall four minutes later made it 2-1.
Unfortunately for Sweden, their advantage was not long-lasted. Just five minutes later Ronaldo scored two goals in three minutes off a pair of counterattacks and suddenly Sweden's World Cup dream was over.
Ronaldo will now get the chance to showcase his talent at the peak of his game next summer in Brazil, while Ibrahimovic's Sweden miss out on their second consecutive World Cup.
Joy for France, Croatia, Greece
France made history in their 3-0 win over Ukraine in Paris. They became the first European team to overturn a 2-0 first leg playoff deficit and qualify for the World Cup. Mamadou Sakho scored France's first in the 22nd minute. Karim Benzema added a second 12 minutes later, despite clearly being in an offside position.
Things got worse for Ukraine when Yevhen Khacheridi was sent off minutes into the second half. Remarkably, the hosts held on until the 72nd minute, when Oleh Husyev's own goal finally put the aggregate score in France's favor.
Iceland had their hopes of becoming the smallest-ever nation to qualify for the World Cup dashed when they fell 2-0 away to Croatia. After holding onto a 0-0 draw in the first leg despite playing much of the game with 10 men, morale was high for the Nordic minnows. But Mario Mandzukic had other plans.
Taking advantage of some poor Iceland marking in the box, the Bayern Munich striker put Croatia ahead in the 27th minute. Just 10 minutes later he was sent off for a reckless tackle, but Iceland were unable to capitalize on their man-advantage and struggled to create chances. A goal from Darijo Srna in the second half sealed the result and sent Croatia to their first World Cup since 2006.
Greece booked a ticket to their second consecutive World Cup after holding Romania to a 1-1 draw in Bucharest. After securing a 3-1 win in the first leg, it finished 4-2 on aggregate. Kostas Mitroglou opened the scoring on a breakaway in the 23rd minute. An own-goal from Vasillis Torosidis ten minutes into the second half gave faint hope to the Romanians, but it stayed level and Greece advanced.
African qualifiers set
The final African World Cup qualifying matches were also held on Tuesday. Egypt were unable to overcome their 6-1 first-leg defeat to Ghana during the return fixture in Cairo. There was slight hope when Egypt went ahead 2-0 until Schalke striker Kevin-Prince Boateng scored his second-ever international goal to put an end to the Pharaoh's World Cup aspirations.
Algeria, meanwhile, became the only non-West African team to reach Brazil after they defeated Burkina Faso 1-0 at home. Algeria's pair of away goals their 3-2 first leg loss ultimately proved enough to see them advance.
Ghana and Algeria join the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Cameroon – who earned their spots over the weekend – as Africa's participants in the World Cup.