Nov 14, 2013, 7:36 PM EDT
When asked last month about who he preferred, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter noted his marginal preference for the former but not without noting that a third name has now entered the ring: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
For FIFA and the world at large, perhaps the biggest downside of the 2014 World Cup is that audiences will only be able to watch two of these players come next summer.
Messi will be one of them. But either Ronaldo or Zlatan will not be in Brazil.
Merely writing that last sentence is incredibly painful. It’s a realization that I, like yourself (presumably), am not ready to come to grips with.
This cruel reality will play itself out over the course of two matches, the first in Portugal this Friday and the second in Sweden next Tuesday.
Upon collecting his seventh Swedish national footballer of the year award in eight years, Ibra discussed why his country is more deserved of a place in Brazil. “We finished second in a very hard group, while they finished second in one they should have won,” said the striker.
It’s a position that is backed in fact. As they so often do in qualifying, Portugal took a relaxed approach. Taking only two points from Israel and drawing with Northern Ireland in Lisbon, Portugal gifted Russia first place in the group and automatic qualification to Brazil.
Sweden, on the other hand, came second in a group with world-powerhouse Germany, who the Swedes lost to in a 5-3 thriller before managing a 4-4 draw in Berlin.
Yet despite each country’s qualifying form, most would agree that Portugal has the better potential for a deep World Cup run. In addition to CR7, they possess great talent in the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Nani, Bruno Alves and Helder Postiga.
When they’re up for it they can be great, as displayed in their semi-final run in Euro 2012. But too often, whether prompted by boredom or over-sized egos, the Selecção suffer let-downs.
Which is where Sweden excel. They are consistent, always play hard, rarely drop focus and have long been known to slay giants when the big game comes.
Inevitably, however, your preference for this match has little do with Portugal over Sweden (or vice versa) and is all about Ronaldo or Zlatan.
Joe Prince-Wright and myself debate this exact topic in the video above. As we’re both long time backers of Ronaldo in his competition with Messi you’d think we’d be in agreement over who we want to see in Brazil. But that wasn’t the case.
So have a gander at our debate and let us know your thoughts on what is the most explosive topic of the week – Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic?
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