Cristiano Ronaldo scored on a header in the 81st minute to give Portugal a 1-0 win over Sweden here Friday in the first leg of a playoff for one of the four remaining European slots in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
The Real Madrid star also prevailed in the high-profile duel with Sweden's top striker, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who had a few sparkling moment in the first half but was almost invisible for the last 45 minutes.
Ronaldo, though showing signs of fatigue, played with great determination if not always with his customary level of skill and was ultimately rewarded with his 44th goal in 108 appearances for Portugal.
The second leg is set for next Tuesday in Stockholm.
France's hopes of qualifying for Brazil grew dimmer on Friday with the squad's 2-0 loss to Ukraine in the first leg of their playoff.
Croatia and Iceland played to a 0-0 draw and Greece dominated Romania 3-1 in Friday's other European playoff action.
Belgium, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England and defending champion Spain have already secured their places in the 2014 World Cup. EFE