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. Report: West Ham join QPR in chase for Toronto’s Jermaine Defoe

    Sep 22, 2014, 7:53 AM EDT

    jermain_defoe Getty Images

    Will Defoe be heading back to England at the end of the 2014 MLS season? Reports suggest its likely.

  2. MLS Sunday review: Toronto FC ease to victory against lowly Chivas USA

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:37 AM EDT

    toronto_fc AP

    Toronto FC vs. Chivas USA was the only MLS match to occur on Sunday.

  3. La Liga and Serie A roundup: Real Madrid smokes Deportivo, Juve downs Milan

    Sep 22, 2014, 12:10 AM EDT

    cristiano_ronaldo AP

    Roundup of Serie A and La Liga matches from the weekend.

  4. Manchester City’s Zabaleta believes Diego Costa luckily escaped red card

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:09 PM EDT

    manchester-city-pablo-zabaleta Getty Images

    Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta thinks the referee let Diego Costa off without a red card during their encounter that spurred a red card for the Argentine.

  5. Barcelona stays undefeated with 5-0 drubbing of Levante

    Sep 21, 2014, 9:07 PM EDT

    FC Barcelona v SL Benfica - UEFA Champions League Getty Images

    Barcelona beat Levante 5-0 on Sunday to continue their winning streak in all competitions.

  6. Joe Hart’s Manchester City future in limbo, Liverpool may target the goalkeeper

    Sep 21, 2014, 7:02 PM EDT

    Can England start to churn out talents such as Joe Hart from SGP on a regular basis? Getty Images

    Manchester City goalie Joe Hart confirmed that he hadn’t discussed a new contract with the club, and Liverpool is a prime candidate for his services, according to the Metro.

  7. Merseyside police to explore racist comments at Mario Balotelli

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:48 PM EDT

    hi-res-133f09d31924ea9d682e1f1a8a3ffef1_crop_north Getty Images

    More racism was thrown at Mario Balotelli, but this time, it appears law enforcement will get involved.

  8. Mesut Ozil, Danny Welbeck brandish skills in 3-0 win over Aston Villa

    Sep 21, 2014, 5:09 PM EDT

    Mesut Özil returns for Arsenal as they attempt to reclaim the top of the Premier League table with a win over Stoke. AP

    Mesut Ozil and Danny Welbeck scored and assisted each other during the Gunners 3-0 win over Aston Villa.

  9. WATCH: Alessandro Florenzi embraces grandmother in stands after goal

    Sep 21, 2014, 4:30 PM EDT

    Unknown Getty Images

    Alessandro Florenzi hugged and kissed his grandmother in the Stade Olimpico stands following his goal in AS Roma’s 2-0 victory over Cagliari.

  10. Roberto Martinez on Crystal Palace loss: ‘We didn’t have that real drive about us’

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:34 PM EDT

    Martinez AP

    Everton manager Roberto Martinez laments loss to Crystal Palace, saying that his squad lost its drive for victory.

  11. Daniel Sturridge reacts to Lampard’s equalizer against Chelsea

    Sep 21, 2014, 3:06 PM EDT

    Lampard Getty Images

    One England international paid respects to another as a legend scored an emotional goal for his new team against his old.

  12. Emotional Lampard just as shocked after pegging back ex-club Chelsea (VIDEO)

    Sep 21, 2014, 1:55 PM EDT

    Lampard AP

    We didn’t see this coming, and neither did Frank Lampard.

  13. Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea: Lampard shocks former club with late equalizer (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:57 PM EDT

    Zabaleta AP

    Pablo Zabaleta’s second yellow card changed the game, but a former Chelsea legend came back to haunt them.

  14. Everton 2-3 Crystal Palace: Visitors overwhelm Goodson with deadly counters (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 12:55 PM EDT

    PalaceEverton

    Everton started early and saw much of the ball but Crystal Palace got a few breaks and took advantage to pick up their first win of the season.

  15. Mario Balotelli mocks Manchester United on twitter

    Sep 21, 2014, 11:21 AM EDT

    Balotelli AP

    Mario Balotelli put an LOL up on Twitter at Manchester United’s expense, and subjected himself to some horrible racial abuse.

  16. VIDEO: Angel Di Maria scores stunning chip for Manchester United

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:57 AM EDT

    ManchesterUnited AP

    Despite heavy defeat, United’s new attacker scores goal of the season contender.

  17. Watch Live: Everton vs. Crystal Palace (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:51 AM EDT

    Everton Getty Images

    Everton has sewn the seeds for a good run of form and are hoping to build on recent success against a struggling Palace squad.

  18. Watch Live: Manchester City vs. Chelsea (Lineups)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:42 AM EDT

    Costa AP

    Diego Costa hsa been in fantastic form to begin his Premier League career, and has the chance to fire Chelsea five points clear at the top of the table.

  19. Leicester City 5-3 Manchester United: Foxes complete comeback for the ages (video)

    Sep 21, 2014, 10:26 AM EDT

    LCFCvMUFC Getty Images

    Manchester United were left shell-shocked after blowing a 3-1 lead against Premier League minnows.

Featured video

Week 5: Top five Premier League goals