Soccer fans around the world finally have the answer to the question that has loomed like a cloud over the sport since Sweden was set to play Portugal in the World Cup playoff draw: Which one of the game’s elites, Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo, will miss the tourney? Tuesday, they got their answer.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden will miss the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Tuesday’s match, a 3-2 win for the Portuguese, played out exactly like the hype: Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Ronaldo. The opposing pair accounted for all of the scoring, with the Portuguese forward getting the hat trick and besting Ibrahimovic, the Swedish captain, by a goal. Many involved said that it was about two teams and not just Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo; Portugal coach Paulo Bento said they would not be keying on the Swedish captain.
“We respect the Swedish national team a lot, they’ve got an excellent group of players and of course they’ve got Ibrahimovic, everybody knows his quality,” Bento said. “But we will try to do as we did in the first game and try to control Sweden as a whole, and not only a single player.”
After a scoreless first half, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a breakaway in the 52nd minute, meaning Zlatan and the Swedish team would need a two-goal edge to advance (after losing the first leg to Portugal 0-1). Ibrahimovic put his team on the board in the 69th minute after a corner kick, with Zlatan blasting a header past Portuguese keeper Rui Patricio. Ibrahimovic then put his team ahead with a laser-guided free kick in the 73rd minute.
But Cristiano Ronaldo wasn’t going to let Zlatan Ibrahimovic take his spot in Brazil without a fight. He put one away in the 78th minute and another a minute later to finish the hat trick and seal Sweden’s fate.
Ibrahimovic, at 32, might have missed out on his last World Cup. He was gracious in defeat, but Zlatan made it clear how he felt about missing the 2014 tourney in Brazil.
“One thing is sure, a World Cup without me is something I won’t be following,” Ibramiovic said via the BBC. “All my congratulations to Portugal, but the two teams deserved to go to the World Cup.”
What do you think about Zlatan Ibrahimovic missing out on soccer’s biggest global stage? Did the Ibrahimovic-Ronaldo match-up play out the way you expected?