Cristiano Ronaldo scores 1st international hat trick
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo, right, reacts with Joao Moutinho, center, and Joa Periera after scoring a goal against Northern Ireland during their World Cup Group F qualifier soccer match at Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Peter Morrison)
Steve Douglas, The Associated Press
Published Friday, September 6, 2013 9:36PM EDT
Spain, Germany and Italy won Friday to move to the brink of qualification for next year's World Cup, while Cristiano Ronaldo's first international hat trick kept Portugal on course for the tournament in Brazil.
The Netherlands needed an injury time penalty kick from Robin van Persie for a 2-2 tie at 85th-ranked Estonia, and England moved atop its group with a 4-0 rout of Moldova as Danny Welbeck scored twice following Steven Gerrard's first England goal in three years and Rickie Lambert's second in two games.
Defending world champion Spain won 2-0 at Finland on goals by Jordi Alba and Alvaro Negredo, opening a three-point lead in Group I over France, which tied 0-0 at Georgia.
The nine European group winners qualify for next June's 32-nation field, and the top eight second-place teams advance to playoffs.
In late games in North America and the Caribbean, the United States was at Costa Rica, Mexico hosted Honduras and Panama was home against Jamaica.
Only five teams are assured World Cup berths thus far: host Brazil and Asian qualifiers Australia, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
Germany and Italy would clinch first place in their groups with wins Tuesday. Germany beat Austria 3-0 as Miroslav Klose scored his 68th international goal, tying Gerd Mueller's German record. Italy defeated Bulgaria 1-0 on Alberto Gilardino's 38th-minute goal.
Ronaldo scored in the 68th, 77th and 83rd minutes as Portugal rallied for a 4-2 win at Northern Ireland. While he has 20 hat tricks for Real Madrid and one for Manchester United, he had never scored three goals in a match for his country.
With 43 international goals, he moved two ahead of Eusebio on Portugal's career and trails only Pauleta's 47. Portugal, which has two games left, opened a two-point lead in Group F over Russia, which has three matches remaining.
Belgium opened a five-point lead in Group A with a 2-0 win at Scotland as Steven Defour and Kevin Mirallas scored.
Bosnia-Herzegovina lost 1-0 at home to Slovakia and leads Group G on goal difference over Greece, which won 1-0 at Liechtenstein on Costas Mitroglou's 72nd-minute goal.
Ukraine routed San Marino 9-0 and is one point behind England, which leads Group H on goal difference over Montenegro, which tied 1-1 at Poland.
Crowd violence marred Romania's 3-0 win over Hungary in Group D. Five fans and two police officers were injured in pregame skirmishes. Serbia and Croatia drew 1-1 in a heated match between former Yugoslav territories, eliminating the Serbs from contention.
In South America, Colombia won 1-0 at home against Ecuador, and Paraguay routed visiting Bolivia 4-0 on goals by Jonathan Fabbro, Roque Santa Cruz, Richard Ortiz and Gustavo Gomez. Chile hosted Venezuela and Uruguay was at Peru in late games.
Argentina and Colombia lead with 26 points each, while Ecuador and Chile have 21 apiece, Uruguay and Venezuela 16 each and Peru 14. The top four teams qualify.
In the first leg of the Asian playoff, Uzbekistan tied 1-1 at Jordan. The second leg is Tuesday, and the winner advances to a playoff against South America's fifth-place team.