(CNN) -- It was billed as a battle between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, two of the top footballers in the world.
Ronaldo was the clear winner as he scored the lone goal for Portugal in a 1-0 victory over Sweden in the first leg of their World Cup playoff -- although some would argue he should have been shown a red card prior to the brave diving header.
Ronaldo met Miguel Veloso's sumptuous cross in the 82nd minute just as it looked like he -- and his teammates -- would have to settle for a draw in Lisbon.
The tie, however, is still in the balance after Ronaldo missed another good chance, striking the crossbar in the 86th minute with a further header.
"It was an important step to reach the World Cup but not yet decisive," Portugal manager Paulo Bento told reporters.
Earlier in the second half, Ronaldo appeared to headbutt Swedish defender Mikael Lustig. Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli opted not to punish the Real Madrid star but later showed him a yellow card for clipping Swedish keeper Andreas Isaksson.
Ibrahimovic was silenced but will be looking forward to the return leg in Sweden on Tuesday.
France faces an uphill climb to reach the 2014 World Cup, meanwhile, after losing 2-0 to Ukraine and Greece is almost in Brazil following a 3-1 win over Romania.
In the lone other European playoff, Iceland -- bidding to become the smallest nation, in population, to reach a World Cup -- hung on for a 0-0 draw against Croatia despite being reduced to 10 men.
In Lisbon, the start was far from cautious.
In the fifth minute, Raul Meireles' through ball picked out Joao Moutinho and he did well to round the keeper. But his shot from a tight angle went wide.
Sweden almost took the lead on its best opportunity of the evening. Lustig's teasing cross found its way into the box and Johan Elmander's diving flick sailed inches wide.
The Swedes built on their early superiority -- Sebastian Larsson's shot stung the palms of Rui Patricio and Kim Kallstrom's fiercely struck free kick from a yard outside the box flashed wide of Patricio's post.
Portugal, though, dominated possession in the second half and the Swedes were left to defend.
In the 50th minute, Pepe and Helder Postiga caused havoc in the Swedish box and 12 minutes later only a great block prevented a certain Portugal goal.
Sweden's resistance was finally broken courtesy of Ronaldo.
"We played a good game defensively," said Swedish boss Erik Hamren. "The goal was unnecessary. We were careless with that cross."
France last missed a major tournament in 1994 and must mount a comeback Tuesday at the Stade de France to keep the streak alive.
The visitor rarely threatened and Ukraine took the lead when Roman Zozulia's effort eluded Hugo Lloris -- who returned to action after suffering a head injury while playing for club side Tottenham two weeks ago -- in the 61st minute.
Laurent Koscielny brought down the impressive Zozulia for a penalty that Andriy Yarmolenko converted in the 82nd minute and the Arsenal defender later saw red as he tangled with Oleksandr Kucher. Kucher was also dismissed.
Just last summer, France beat Ukraine on the road at Euro 2012.
"It's obviously a very bad result," France manager Didier Deschamps told French television. "We have to believe (we can advance) but Ukraine are the team in the best position to qualify."
Iceland -- population 320,000 -- has never appeared at a World Cup or European Championship but kept its composure in Reykjavik even with defender Olafur Ingi Skulason's straight red card in the 50th minute and the loss of talisman Kolbeinn Sigthorsson due to injury.
"To defend for almost 45 minutes with one less man on the pitch, I can't describe in words what these players have done," Iceland manager Lars Lagerback told Icelandic television.
Two goals from Kostas Mitroglou in Athens gave Greece a sizable advantage versus Romania, which saw red, too, when substitute Costin Lazar was sent off in stoppage time.
Stalemate in Milan
In the highest-profile friendly Friday, Italy and Germany played to an ill tempered 1-1 tie in Milan.
The Germans -- defeated by Italy in the knockout stages at Euro 2012 -- dominated the opening exchanges and pressed home their advantage through defender Mats Hummels' eighth-minute goal. Ignazio Abate subsequently netted his first goal for the national team midway in the first half.
When Marco Reus and Lars Bender missed for Germany near the end, it extended the team's winless run against Italy. Not since 1995 has Germany downed the Azzurri.
The game finished on a sour note, following a clash between Germany's Toni Kroos and Italian defender Thiago Motta.
England, which benched keeper Joe Hart, fell 2-0 to Chile. Barcelona forward Alexis Sanchez scored both goals for Chile as the South American side cut open the Three Lions' defense at Wembley.
England must regroup Tuesday when it faces Germany.