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?
Apr 18, 2014, 11:08 PM EDT
A trio of players have been charged in a match-fixing ring involving 17 first-division matches in the Austrian Bundesliga since 2004.
Apr 18, 2014, 10:22 PM EDT
Everton takes on Manchester United this weekend as the American shot-stopper hopes to save their Champions League dreams.
Apr 18, 2014, 9:09 PM EDT
The German manager says when he was brought in the players were afraid of his reputation, but that fear has long since dissipated.
Apr 18, 2014, 7:38 PM EDT
Stoke City are on a tear, but they have yet to truly figure things out away from the Britannia. Can Cardiff City capitalize on the Potters’ shaky away form for a second straight surprising result?
Apr 18, 2014, 6:53 PM EDT
Whether this new corruption allegation implicates Ricardo Teixeira with regards to the Qatar World Cup bid or his ties to Barcelona, it’s more bad news for the former president of the Brazilian Football Confederation.
Apr 18, 2014, 6:09 PM EDT
With the World Cup still over two years away, Tab Ramos is beginning preparation with North American-based players.
Apr 18, 2014, 5:24 PM EDT
Jose Mourinho has guided Chelsea to an astonishing nine straight clean sheets at Stamford Bridge. Can the bottom-dwelling Black Cats pull off an unforseeable upset?
Apr 18, 2014, 4:46 PM EDT
Following in the footsteps of Samir Nasri’s comments last month, Manchester City’s Ivorian believes being from Africa is preventing him from reaching the game’s individual pinnacles.
Apr 18, 2014, 4:23 PM EDT
With Chicago the draw specialists early on, can they beat New England on Saturday? Watch live on NBCSN, 4 p.m. ET:
Apr 18, 2014, 3:05 PM EDT
With the game played in Valencia’s Mestalla Stadium, the local law enforcement decided to have some fun…at Marc Bartra’s expense.
Apr 18, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Where and how to watch all the PL games during Week 35:
Apr 18, 2014, 1:57 PM EDT
Three Chelsea legends to sign on the dotted line?
Apr 18, 2014, 1:10 PM EDT
Can van Basten get the best out of Johannsson?
Apr 18, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
U.S. national team head coach speaks out on Altidore, USMNT squad, American Outlaws and more:
Apr 18, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Spurs and Fulham set for derby scrap, with both team desperate for three points:
Apr 18, 2014, 10:27 AM EDT
Rooney and Fellaini fit to face their old team, as United aim to scupper Everton’s top four:
Apr 18, 2014, 9:13 AM EDT
Hammers’ youngster loses battle against cancer:
Apr 18, 2014, 8:23 AM EDT
Six nominees for PFA Player and Young Player of the Year award announced:
Apr 18, 2014, 7:51 AM EDT
Beckerman and Bradley; the perfect midfield combination for the USMNT?
Apr 17, 2014, 11:33 PM EDT
MLS’s nine-match Saturday kicks off Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ET, with Chicago hosting New England on NBCSN.
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