France, Portugal reach World Cup

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LONDON – France produced one of soccer's most famous comebacks on Tuesday to scrape into next year's World Cup finals via the playoffs while Portugal blazed through after Cristiano Ronaldo conjured up a sensational hat-trick.

The two European heavyweights will be joined in next June's finals by Croatia, Greece, Ghana and Algeria after they prevailed in their second leg playoffs.

France had to overturn a 2-0 deficit at home to Ukraine and did so with aplomb, Mamadou Sakho, an offside Karim Benzema and an Oleg Gusev own goal after 72 minutes sending the Stade de France wild as the fans celebrated a 3-2 aggregate triumph.

Ronaldo's stunning treble took Portugal to the 2014 tournament in Brazil after three breakaway goals in a 3-2 win in Sweden completed a 4-2 aggregate success after rival Zlatan Ibrahimovic came to life with his own second-half double.

Croatia won 2-0 on aggregate and on the night despite playing most of their home leg against tiny Iceland with 10 men after Mario Mandzukic opened the scoring midway through the first half only to be sent off for a studs up tackle soon after.

Kostas Mitroglou again shone to help Greece reach soccer's greatest showpiece after his composed early finish in a 1-1 draw in Romania set up a 4-2 aggregate victory following his two goals in the first leg. – Reuters

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