World Cup 2014 will be missing one of the best footballers in the world, and soccer fans around the world will find out Friday if that man is Cristiano Ronaldo as Portugal takes on Sweden and its captain, star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
That will be the story line and impact of the match taking place in Lisbon tomorrow, although not according to at least one of the two. Ibrahimovic insists that it's about more than just him and Cristiano Ronaldo.
"It's Sweden against Portugal - do not focus on two players," he said via Yahoo Sports, squashing the Cristiano Ronaldo rivalry talk. "What matters is the collective, and to succeed we all need to do well."
OK, so maybe it is bigger than Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But one of them will be playing next summer while the other only watches. Will it be Cristiano Ronaldo? Zlatan sure thinks so.
"I think that the World Cup needs Zlatan more than Ronaldo," the Swedish captain said.
It's best we stay away from that debate, lest a mob break out. But the Swede touches on the seriousness of the fallout from Friday's face-off. With the World Cup set as the stage where the best players in the world are supposed to compete for glory with the other best players, how do you describe the situation when one of the finalists for the FIFA Ballon D'Or awards—as Cristiano Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are almost assured to be—will miss out on the opportunity when the FIFA World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil next June?
"If Ronaldo, or Neymar, or Rooney, or Messi, or Xavi is missing then it is a shame for the competition - and it is a shame for the World Cup that one of myself or Ronaldo will not be in Brazil."
Will Cristiano Ronaldo miss the 2014 World Cup in Brazil? Can Cristiano lead Portugal past Sweden? Will the tournament be the same without Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic?