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Portugal, France, Belgium sparkle in World Cup qualifiers

Portugal, France and Belgium all posted lopsided wins in the seventh round of European qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup.

The Portuguese, powered by a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick, routed Faroe Islands 5-1 while France cruised 4-0 past the Netherlands. And Belgium embarrassed Gibraltar 9-0 on Thursday, reports Efe.

Leading the second-place Greece by six points, Belgium look all but assured of winning Group H and a ticket to next year’s tournament in Russia.

Thomas Meunier and Romelu Lukaku scored three goals each against the Gibraltarians.

In Paris, the French took the lead in the 14th minute on a goal by Antoine Griezmann and added three more in the second half to whip the Dutch.

Thomas Lemar had a brace for the hosts while 18-year-old Kylian Mbappe scored in stoppage time.

The victory, combined with Sweden’s 2-3 loss to Bulgaria, gives France a three-point lead over the Swedes for the top spot in Group A.

Sitting fourth, two points behind Bulgaria, the Dutch see their chances of qualifying growing slimmer.

Portugal, meanwhile, continue looking up at Switzerland, who maintained their perfect record on Thursday with a 3-0 triumph over Andorra.

The Swiss have 21 points, three more than Portugal. Hungary, 3-1 victors against Latvia, are in third place with just 10 points and virtually out of contention for the second qualifying spot in the group.

Greece, who drew 0-0 at home against Estonia, have 13 points and face a fight for second place in Group H. The third-place team, Bosnia Herzegovina, blew an opportunity to leapfrog the Greeks, losing 0-2 to visiting Cyprus.

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