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. Reports: Alves still wanted by Barcelona as Liverpool agrees to terms with his Barca backup

    May 4, 2015, 8:34 AM EDT

    Martin Montoya, Fernandez AP

    The 24-year-old right back has long been behind Dani Alves in Barca’s pecking order. Alves is out of contract this summer, but the 31-year-old is still wanted by Barcelona.

  2. Spurs legend, 1966 World Cup winner Jimmy Greaves suffers severe stroke

    May 4, 2015, 7:49 AM EDT

    Jimmy Greaves Getty Images

    Greaves also played for Chelsea, AC Milan and West Ham United during the prime of his career.

  3. RVP relieved of penalty duties after miss against West Bromwich

    May 3, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT

    Manchester United v West Bromwich Albion - Premier League Getty Images

    One miss and you’re out. That’s the Louis van Gaal way.

  4. MLS Snapshot: New York City FC 1-3 Seattle Sounders

    May 3, 2015, 9:10 PM EDT

    Obafemi Martins Obafemi Martins

    The combination of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins was too much to handle for NYCFC as the duo ran rampant at Yankee Stadium.

  5. VIDEO: What’s next for Chelsea?

    May 3, 2015, 8:40 PM EDT

    Chelsea may have just won the title, but Robbie Earle and Kyle Martino are already looking ahead to next season.

  6. Report: Newcastle wants Steve McClaren to take charge for final three games

    May 3, 2015, 8:00 PM EDT

    Fulham v Derby County - Sky Bet Championship Getty Images

    John Carver is almost certainly on his way out at Newcastle United, but how quickly will the club make changes?

  7. MLS Snapshot: Sporting Kansas City 1-0 Chicago Fire

    May 3, 2015, 7:03 PM EDT

    Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City Benny Feilhaber, Sporting Kansas City

    It was far from pretty for Sporting KC, but three points is three points, as they say.

  8. La Liga & Serie A roundup: Valencia eyes top-four finish; Napoli blanks Milan

    May 3, 2015, 6:30 PM EDT

    FBL-ESP-LIGA-VALENCIA-EIBAR FBL-ESP-LIGA-VALENCIA-EIBAR

    Catch up on all of Sunday’s action from Spain and Italy’s top flights.

  9. Didier Drogba on winning 2014-15 Premier League title: “This one is sweet” (video)

    May 3, 2015, 5:33 PM EDT

    Chelsea v Crystal Palace - Premier League Getty Images

    The Blues’ legend has had a hand in all four of Chelsea’s Premier League titles, but claims this one is special.

  10. Arsene Wenger confident Jack Wilshere will stay at Arsenal next season

    May 3, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    Arsenal v Hull City - Premier League Getty Images

    Wilshere has been linked with a move to Manchester City, but his manager believes the midfielder will remain a Gunner.

  11. VIDEO: John Terry says he’s proved everyone wrong after winning fourth title

    May 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    The Chelsea captain had one of his best seasons in years, and took a jab at a former manager who said he couldn’t play twice in one week.

  12. VIDEO: Cesc Fabregas discusses the end to his wait for a Premier League title

    May 3, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Fabregas Getty Images

    The former Arsenal and Barcelona midfielder says he knew Chelsea was the place to go to win trophies in England, including the big one cliched Sunday.

  13. VIDEO: Player of the Year Eden Hazard all smiles after Chelsea clinches title

    May 3, 2015, 2:56 PM EDT

    Hazard Getty Images

    Eden Hazard was understandably jovial following Chelsea’s clinching of the Premier League title.

  14. Hamburg wins second straight looking for another narrow escape

    May 3, 2015, 2:19 PM EDT

    Kacar Getty Images

    The Bundesliga club barely escaped relegation last season, and now they’re trying to do it again.

  15. Top seven moments that defined Chelsea’s championship season

    May 3, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    Chelsea AP

    With the Premier League championship officially decided, let’s look back to seven defining moments of Chelsea’s league season.

  16. Tottenham 0-1 Manchester City: Powerful Aguero finish earns City a road win

    May 3, 2015, 12:53 PM EDT

    ro Getty Images

    Sergio Aguero got the better of Harry Kane at White Hart Lane.

  17. VIDEO: Jose Mourinho says Chelsea’s title “a consequence of hard work”

    May 3, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    The Chelsea manager was all business following Chelsea’s title-clinching win over Crystal Palace.

  18. Chelsea crowned Premier League champions in record fashion

    May 3, 2015, 10:57 AM EDT

    Chelsea Getty Images

    The Blues held the top spot in the Premier League table almost wire-to-wire, as no one came close.

  19. Watch Live: Tottenham vs. Manchester City (Lineups and Live Stream)

    May 3, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Aguero AP

    Sergio Aguero and Manchester City travel to White Hart Lane looking to lock down the Premier League’s second place spot.

Featured video

Hazard lauds Mourinho after title win