Madrid, Sep 4 (IANS) Belgium became the first European team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia with a 2-1 victory over Greece away, while Luxembourg upset France by shutting out their star-studded attack for a goalless draw.
In Group B, Portugal on Sunday took a vital three points home from Hungary to remain within one win of group leaders Switzerland, reports Efe,
Belgium,coached by Spanish Roberto Martinez, secured first place in group H with their hard fought victory in Athens, joining the host country Russia along with Brazil, Iran, Japan and Mexico, in the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
They lead the group by an unassailable eight points with two games left to play, while Greece drop to third behind Bosnia-Herzegovina, who beat Gibraltar 4-0.
Belgium struggled to open up a typically solid Greek defence during the first half, with the hosts also threatening sporadically on the counter attack.
Belgium’s finally broke the home side down in the 70th minute, Jan Vertonghen firing in from outside the box.
Greece pegged back within minutes, Zeca finding space in the box to guide a cross from the left home.
Belgium hit straight back to regain the lead when Romelu Lukaku glanced in a near-post header from Thomas Meunier’s precise cross and seal their place in next year’s World Cup.
Belgium’s neighbours France, however, were unable to seal a home win Luxembourg, despite boasting a star-studded front line led by Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe.
Heroic defending from the visitors and poor French finishing meant that Les Bleus slipped to a disappointing stalemate.
The draw means France lead group A on 17 points, just one point ahead of Sweden, with two games left to play.
Switzerland lead the group B with 24 points, three ahead of Portugal, after hitting three against Latvia without reply Riga through goals by Haris Seferovic and Blerim Dzemaili and Ricardo Rodriguez.
Meanwhile Portugal left Budapest with a 1-0 win, Hungary’s seeing red for an elbow on Portugal’s Pepe before a Cristiano Ronaldo cross was headed in at the back post by Andre Silva.
Switzerland will travel to Portugal in the final round of matches knowing a draw will likely be enough to win the group.