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World Cup: Greatest World Cup play-off matches

The European play-offs for the World Cup are upon us, as the likes of Wales, Scotland, Portugal and Italy look to book their spots in the biggest tournament in international football.

Here is a look at some of the greatest European World Cup play-off matches of all-time.

World Cup 2014: Ronaldo sends Portugal through

When Portugal and Sweden were drawn against one another in the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, it was billed as a heavyweight clash between two players - Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Indeed, they were the only two players to find the net across the two legs, but the initial match in Lisbon was about defensive resilience rather than attacking flair, with Ronaldo bagging the only goal of the game with his 82nd-minute header.

That meant it was all to play for when the teams reconvened in Solna and it was a night to remember.

Ronaldo put Portugal on the brink of qualification with the first goal of the game after 50 minutes, before two goals in four minutes from Ibrahimovic, who plied his trade for Paris Saint-Germain at the time, had the Swedes on top.

It really was a case of 'anything you can do, I can do better' from Ronaldo, though, as the Portuguese ace struck in the 77th and 79th minutes to give his side a 4-2 aggregate success.

World Cup 2014: Quality eventually sees France prevail

France reached the quarter-finals of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but nearly didn't qualify for the tournament at all, having had to book their place in the competition with a play-off win over Ukraine.

In initial qualifying the French, under the stewardship of Didier Deschamps, finished second to Spain in Group I, meaning they would have to go through the playoff route and were drawn against Ukraine, who finished a point behind England in Group H.

Ukraine went into the first leg at home having gone unbeaten in their last ten matches and they extended that run with a 2-0 triumph courtesy of goals from Roman Zozulya and Andriy Yarmolenko.

But at the Stade de France, Les Bleus, who had Franck Ribery, Paul Pogba and Karim Benzema in their ranks, turned on the style to win 3-0 and become the first ever European side to overturn a 2-0 deficit in the World Cup play-offs.

World Cup 2010: Henry controversy breaks Irish hearts

Perhaps the most memorable World Cup play-off encounter of recent years - Republic of Ireland's clash with France in the 2010 qualifiers - is remembered for a key moment of controversy as opposed to the quality of play on the pitch.

France had to go through the play-offs after placing second behind Serbia in their qualifying section, while Ireland had done well to finish just below Italy in their group and were the underdogs going into the tie between the sides.

The French drew first blood with a 1-0 win at Croke Park in Dublin, but Ireland levelled the tie thanks to Robbie Keane's strike in the second leg at the Stade de France.

The match was on a knife edge heading into extra-time and would be decided by a moment of injustice in the dying embers of the tie.

With the clock ticking down Florent Malouda put in a free-kick and Arsenal legend Henry handled the ball twice to control it, before sending the ball in to William Gallas, who scored the decisive goal.

Irish players and fans alike were naturally outraged that match officials had not spotted Henry's handball and an offside in the build-up to the goal and with technology lacking at the time, the goal stood.

Ireland could not find a response late on and, despite Henry admitting he handled the ball after the match and appeals from the FAI for the match to be replayed, France kept their spot in the tournament in South Africa.

World Cup 2006: Away goals see Swiss through

The away goals rule has since been scrapped in the Champions League, but it was what decided a pulsating tie between Switzerland and Turkey heading into the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

It was by far the most entertaining of the three playoff ties in the second round of qualifying for the tournament but the first leg was rather uneventful with Valon Behrami and Philippe Senderos of Arsenal netting to give the hosts a 2-0 win at the Wankdorf Stadium in Bern.

The second leg was far from straightforward though.

Alexander Frei put the Swiss on the precipice of the 2006 World Cup with a penalty scored after only two minutes, extending their aggregate lead to 3-0, but Turkey showed plenty of heart in their response.

Tuncay Sanli bagged a first-half brace to give his team some hope, before Necati Ates put away a penalty of his own after 52 minutes to level the tie 3-3.

The pendulum, however, swung back in the favour of Switzerland when Marco Streller scored with only six minutes of normal time remaining and, although Tuncay sealed a hat-trick with a goal after 89 minutes, the Swiss advanced courtesy of the away goals rule - the tie finishing 4-4 on aggregate.

The drama was not over yet, though, as following the full-time whistle, the passion of both teams boiled over with brawls taking place in the tunnel.

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