Substitute Cristiano Ronaldo lifted Portugal to a labored 2-0 win at Andorra on Saturday, and set up a showdown against Switzerland next week that will decide who advances to the World Cup.
BASEL, Switzerland (AP) Substitute Cristiano Ronaldo lifted Portugal to a labored 2-0 win at Andorra on Saturday, and set up a showdown against Switzerland next week that will decide who advances to the World Cup.
Ronaldo was rested and watched the first half from the bench. Without its superstar, the European champion struggled against the 144th-ranked minnow. In desperation, Ronaldo was sent on and his 63rd-minute goal helped earn an eighth straight win in Europe Group B.
However, Switzerland ran its win streak to a perfect nine with a comfortable win at home over Hungary 5-2.
An embarrassing error by Hungary goalkeeper Peter Gulacsi presented an 18th-minute opening goal to midfielder Granit Xhaka and got Switzerland cruising to victory.
Portugal hosts the Swiss on Tuesday in Lisbon and needs a win to top the group on goal difference.
Switzerland needs only a draw to win the group and send Ronaldo and Portugal to the playoffs again. Portugal advanced to the 2010 and 2014 finals via the playoffs.
Ronaldo's goal was his 15th in the qualifying group, tied for the most in Europe with Robert Lewandowski of Poland. He also helped create Portugal's second goal in the 86th scored by Andre Silva, an eighth for the forward in the group.
Switzerland was handed the lead when Gulacsi lost his footing after controlling a back pass. The ball rolled out to Xhaka and the midfielder easily sidestepped the prone goalie to score into an empty net.
Gulacsi was also at fault for the fourth Swiss goal in the 49th. The `keeper tipped a curling Steven Zuber shot softly into the air and across the goal line instead of over the crossbar.
Zuber also teed up Fabian Frei, and scored the third just before halftime by slipping a shot past the advancing Gulacsi. Captain Stephan Lichtsteiner rifled home to make it 5-1.
Both Hungary goals stemmed from goalkeeper Yann Sommer's poor handling in the goalmouth, with chances taken by Richard Guzmics and Roland Ugrai in the second half.
Swiss fans cheered the return after a one-year injury absence of forward Breel Embolo. He replaced Haris Seferovic, who missed a clear open-goal chance from three meters in the first half.
Also, Faroe Islands drew with Latvia 0-0 to ensure finishing no worse than fourth in the group.