Ronaldo to miss crucial final qualifier

Cristiano Ronaldo holds his ankle before going off in Portugal's win over Hungary.
Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo has been ruled out of Portugal’s crucial final World Cup qualifier against Malta on Wednesday with an ankle injury.

Ronaldo played with the injury in Portugal’s 3-0 home victory over Hungary on Saturday but lasted just 27 minutes before limping off. Portugal, who have made a late charge in World Cup qualifying after looking set to make an ignominious exit, need to beat Malta in the home game to be sure of a place in the European playoffs. “After a latest clinical examination and the impossibility of recovering from the knock on his right ankle, Cristiano Ronaldo has been allowed to leave, 2 the Portugal federation said in a statement on Sunday. Denmark have an unassailable lead in Group One after beating Scandinavian rivals Sweden 1-0 on Saturday.

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The results almost certainly means the departure of Swedish coach Lars Lagerback, who said on Sunday that he will resign if his team fail to qualify for the World Cup finals in South Africa. Roland Andersson, Lagerback’s assistant, has also signaled he will go if results go against them on Wednesday. “Roland and I will resign depending on the result, either after the World Cup in South Africa, after the playoffs or after the (last) qualifier against Albania,” Lagerback said. The Swedes are now third in the group, a point behind Portugal, and face Albania in their final match. They must hope that Portugal, missing Ronaldo, slip up against Malta, while beating Albania.