As disappointing as it is to not have the enigma that is Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the World Cup in Brazil next year, it’s difficult to argue a case against Portugal thoroughly deserving their place in the finals. Over the two legs of the qualifier they clearly were the better team, and a well organised and energetic Sweden didn’t offer enough cutting edge over both games to really threaten the Portuguese chances. A brief spell of 15 minutes where Zlatan scored twice, including an unstoppable free kick, gave the Swedes a taste of hope and they grabbed the momentum they’d earned with both hands. This left them exposed and Ronaldo, refused to be out done by his fellow Ballon d’Or nominee, struck two successive counter attacking goals to settle the tie and stamp his authority on a match billed as a battle of two of the worlds best players.
Ronaldo truly is devastating on the counter attack. His rapid pace and excellent touch left the Swedes helpless when Portugal broke from there own half. And when Cristiano is through on goal there is usually only one outcome. In the first leg there was a determination and fight in Ronaldo, which he used to steal his goal with a brave diving header. In the second leg, when Sweden needed to take the game to Portugal, his pace and clinical finishing, along with a cool calmness undone the normally well drilled Swedes.
Ibrahimovic lacked a desire over the course of the two games. His usual nonchalance and coolness appeared more like a lack of interest. Sweden offered little of quality in the Portuguese final third and only when Zlatan decided he was ready to play, scoring two goals in four minutes , did the Scandinavians look like achieving their aim. But this didn’t last long with Ronaldo’s brace soon after dashing any remaining Swedish aspirations.
In a game sold as Ronaldo versus Ibrahimovic, it’s fitting that those two players scored all six goals of the tie. The difference is Ronaldo scored 4.