Messi, Ronaldo set for World Cup

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The fear that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Antoine Griezmann could all be sat at home next June was allayed during the latest round of group games when 12 countries in total booked their passage to Russia.

Their places at the 2018 Russia World Cup were threatened, but eventually both helped their nation to a deciding victory to ensure the top two talents in world football would be present.

Euro 2016 winners Portugal did so by beating Switzerland 2-0 to leave the Swiss, who had won each of their other nine qualifiers, in the play-offs along with Italy, Croatia, Denmark, Northern Ireland, Sweden, the Republic of Ireland and Greece.

France ensured they will be in the draw in Moscow on December 1, Arsenal's Olivier Giroud on the scoresheet in a 2-1 win over Belarus in Paris to top Group A.

Of those dozen, Iceland and Panama have reached the major tournament for the first time in their nations' history, while three-times finalists Holland, Chile and the United States have been among those eliminated.

Switzerland travel to Lisbon on Tuesday to face Portugal in a World Cup qualifying match.

Thus, the stage is set for exciting clash between the Real Madrid and Barcelona football giants at the Mundial.

Diminutive Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard made eight appearances for the Red Devils in qualifying, scoring six goals and claiming five assists.

Hours after Salah's heroics, another late goal from Kendall Waston earned Costa Rica the point they needed to claim one of the three guaranteed places on offer to the CONCACAF nations.

The U.S., one of FIFA's most important members in commercial terms, were not so lucky as a shock 2-1 defeat in Trinidad and Tobago, combined with wins for Panama and Honduras, ended their run of seven successive finals appearances. They're already certain to prop up Group B behind the almost equally disappointing Cameroon as well as Zambia and qualifiers Nigeria.

Cristiano Ronaldo's team got the win it needed in the showdown against the Swiss at a packed Stadium of Light.

FIFA agreed and awarded them a 3-0 walkover win - but then did the same for Peru who lost 2-0 to Bolivia and therefore gained three extra points, compared to Chile's two.

"We have entered every game to win, it is the strength that our coach and team-mates convey to us, and we know that when we believe and think in this way, we are closer to winning". Ronaldo scored 15 goals in the campaign. If Sweden fail to get through their play-off, we can slot in Victor Lindelof here.

With the Spain captain turning 34 before the start of the World Cup finals, Russia threatens to be Andres Iniesta's last chance of adding to his 2010 winners' medal.

A prolific striker for years now in the Bundesliga and Champions League with Borussia Dortmund, and every bit as much of a fixture in this kind of team as he is in the gossip pages every summer and January when that move to Liverpool never quite seems to transpire.