Skip to content

Ronaldo topples Zlatan: Real Madrid star’s hat trick sends Portugal past Sweden, into the 2014 World Cup

Nov 19, 2013, 4:56 PM EDT

It was the type of shootout you’d see on a basketball course, not a soccer field: Two players, one-on-one, their teammates fading into insignificance as alpha tried to one-up alpha. You saw it in Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s determination, his second half brace temporarily leaving Sweden one goal away from the World Cup. and you saw it in Cristiano Ronaldo’s elation, the Real Madrid star’s stern “right here” declarations celebrating his tie-sealing goal.

For as tedious as the pre-match hype was — everybody trying to portray Portugal against Sweden as Cristiano Ronaldo versus Zlatan Ibrahimovic — that’s exactly what we got. It too three halves to surface, but by the end of Portugal and Sweden’s playoff, it was all about the two icons, stars trying to eclipse each other in front of a full house in Solna. After two legs and 180 minutes, two of the world’s top three players had combined for six goals.

But thanks to a Swedish defense that was beaten badly three times, four of those goals went to Ronaldo, whose Tuesday hat trick sent his hosts crashing. Despite a second half brace from Ibrahimovic, Sweden will miss their second straight World Cup, today’s 3-2 loss allowing Portugal to advance to Brazil 2014 (4-2, aggregate).

Portugal joined the day’s other six qualifiers to bring the World Cup field to 30, with France eliminating Ukraine shortly after the final whistle in Sweden. Ghana and Algeria won their African qualifying playoffs earlier today, while Greece and Croatia defeated Romania and Iceland in Europe.

[MORE: Historic comeback sees France into World Cup 2014, Ukraine denied place in Brazil]

[MORE: Europe World Cup playoff roundup: Greece, Croatia complete UEFA’s field for Brazil 2014]

[MORE: Ghana finish off Egypt to qualify for World Cup 2014 in Brazil; what now for Bob Bradley?]

Over the next two days, the final two World Cup 2014 spots will be decided. Uruguay carries a 5-0 lead over Jordan into the teams’ second leg in Montevideo (Wednesday), while Mexico is likely to advance past New Zealand on Tuesday night, having earned a 5-1 lead last week in Mexico City.

From the early moments today in at Friends Arena, it was clear that Ronaldo’s late goal in Lisbon would allow Portugal to play from their more comfortable, counterattacking posture. Conceding Sweden the ball and electing to stay organized rather than pursue, the Seleccao were able to rely on their transition to dominate the first half. Though Sweden held 56 percent of the ball, they were outshot 9-3 in the first half, a 40th minute header from Hugo Almeida nearly doubling Portugal’s 1-0 lead.

source: AP

Two goals from Zlatan Ibrahimovic pulled Sweden even with Portugal, away goals the only thing separating the sides. Portugal went on to win on aggregate, 4-2. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Five minutes into the second half, Portugal had their two-goal advantage, a counter that left Ronaldo behind the Swedish defense ending with a left-footed shot from 12 yards out into the right of goal. Beating a high defensive line, Ronaldo cut across right back Martin Olsson to get onto an João Moutinho ball play through central defense. Moments later, alone on goal, the Real Madrid star’s second goal of the playoff had the visitors up two.

But in a playoff that was billed as Ronaldo versus Zlatan, it was time for Ibrahimovic to step up. In the 68th minute, a corner from Kim Källström saw the Paris Saint-Germain star out-muscle Bruno Alves at the edge of the six-yard box, his header into the left of Rui Patricio’s net cutting Portugal’s lead to one. Four minutes later, the Seleccao were left with only their tiebreaker edge, an Ibrahimovic free kick from just outside the penalty box pulling his team event.

But again, Sweden’s high line would be victimized. From the left this time, Ronaldo was left to go in alone on goal once more, sprinting past the Swedish defense at the center line for an eventual chance from the left of goal. Burying is shot in the far corner, the Portuguese captain made it 2-2 (3-2 on aggregate).

Their lessons unlearned, Sweden allowed themselves to be beaten again in two minutes later, a turnover in midfield quickly converted into an open chance when Moutinho found Ronaldo streaking across right back Mikarl Lustig. After drawing Isaksson out, Ronaldo put his right-footed shot into the top of the Swedish next, completing his hat trick.

With their 3-2 win in Solna, Portugal had navigated their third straight major tournament qualifying playoff, but after 180 minutes that produced six goals from Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, few are likely to remember the matchup’s context. Instead, the same fascination that dominated the buildup with write the history of Portugal-Sweden. With four goals over two games, Ronaldo earned his spot in next year’s World Cup, but with two goals in five minutes of Tuesday’s second half, Ibrahimovic did his part to ensure the show delivered on its promise.

Latest Posts
  1. MLS Roundup: Sporting climbs to first in East; RSL stays undefeated

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:53 AM EDT

    ned_grabavoy_javier_morales Getty Images

    Dallas stayed at the top of the Western Conference, while Seattle improved to 3-0-1 on the road.

  2. Late Martins goal gives Seattle full points at Chivas USA (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:39 AM EDT

    Obafemi Martins 2

    Seattle’s high-priced strike tandem produced another late winner, giving the Sounders their fourth win of the season.

  3. Grabavoy winner prolongs Portland’s agony against Real Salt Lake (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:51 AM EDT

    nick_rimando Getty Images

    Two huge saves in the final minutes from Nick Rimando keep RSL unbeaten.

  4. Sporting Kansas City takes care of business against Montréal, 4-0 (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 1:05 AM EDT

    dom_dwyer AP

    Goal difference has the defending champions on top of the Eastern Conference.

  5. Pérez’s late goal gives FC Dallas 2-1 win over Toronto FC (video)

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:35 AM EDT

    blas_perez Getty Images

    Two more goals off set pieces gave FC Dallas its fifth win of the season.

  6. D.C. United takes a point out of Columbus, but referee has some explaining to do (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:55 PM EDT

    bernardo_anor_davy_arnaud Getty Images

    Juan Guzman gave Giancarlo Gonzalez a pass. Columbus came back to claim a draw.

  7. Late strike from Manneh allows Vancouver to salvage a point against LA Galaxy (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:11 PM EDT

    jay_demerit_robbie_keane Getty Images

    Two separate leads were pulled back as the Whitecaps fought back at BC Place.

  8. WATCH: Arlo White, Jim Beglin on Chelsea’s shock loss to Sunderland

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:24 PM EDT

    jozy_altidore_cesar_azpilicueta Getty Images

    NBC’s team on the scene reacts to the day’s big result:

  9. Colorado, San Jose combine for one shot on target, no goals (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 8:49 PM EDT

    Clint Irwin AP

    San Jose remains without a win beside playing the second place Rapids to a standstill.

  10. WATCH: All the goals, highlights from Saturday in the Premier League

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:43 PM EDT

    sunderland_chelsea AP

    Look back at a Saturday that helped bring clarity to the Premier League’s title race.

  11. More late PK heartbreak sees Chicago draw sixth in a row (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:07 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa Getty Images

    Two weeks ago, it was Mike Magee. On Saturday, it was Juan Luis Anagonó who couldn’t covert late from the spot.

  12. Union, Dynamo fail to break through, end deadlocked at PPL Park (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 6:29 PM EDT

    gilles_barnes AP

    Will Bruin and Andrew Wenger came close, but neither were able to keep his team from playing out a scoreless draw.

  13. Bundesliga Roundup: Battle for European places continues in Germany

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT

    Dortmund's Robert Lewandowski of Poland, center, scores during the German first division Bundesliga soccer match between BvB Borussia Dortmund and Mainz 05 in Dortmund, Germany, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) AP

    A host of teams are battling it out to determine who will fill Germany’s European spots. Meanwhile, the rush to avoid the drop continues.

  14. Watch Live: Chicago Fire vs. New England Revolution (Lineups and Discuss)

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:38 PM EDT

    quincy_amarikwa_jack_mcinerney AP

    Chicago goes for its first win while New England looks to make it two-in-a-row, and it all starts at 4:00 p.m. ET on NBC/NBC Sports Live Extra:

  15. Premier League Roundup: Chelsea blow it, Swansea, Spurs and Palace win

    Apr 19, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT

    Borini and Sunderland stunned Chelsea, as the bottom club beat the title chasers. Getty Images

    All the recaps, analysis and video highlights from a sensational Saturday:

  16. VIDEO: Jose Mourinho’s sensational swipe at officials after Chelsea suffer shock defeat

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:56 PM EDT

    Britain Soccer Champions League AP

    Watch Chelsea’s manager implode in the post-match TV interview, as his unbeaten streak comes to an end:

  17. Serie A Roundup: Milan look set to sneak into Europe

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:52 PM EDT

    AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli, second from left, celebrates with his teammates after scoring during the Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Livorno at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy, Saturday, April 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) AP

    Lazio, Torino and Parma all dropped points, opening a path for AC Milan to push into Italy’s final Europa League spot.

  18. Chelsea 1-2 Sunderland: Blues’ title dreams in ruins, as Black Cats grab shock win (video)

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:32 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Sunderland - Premier League Getty Images

    Chelsea lose at home in PL under Mourinho for first time in 77 matches, as Sunderland shock Blues:

  19. Watch – Chelsea and Sunderland level with title and survival on the line

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:26 PM EDT

    Eto'o is at the center of a huge controversy as Mourinho was recorded without his knowledge. AP

    Blues and Black Cats locked at 1-1 after nervy first half, watch live online right here:

  20. Magath insists Fulham will be able to avoid relegation

    Apr 19, 2014, 1:07 PM EDT

    Aston Villa v Fulham - Premier League Getty Images

    According to the Fulham manager, if his side win their two remaining home matches, the Whites will stay up.

Featured video

PST Extra: Race for the PL title