Ronaldo proves his worth to history with vintage display
Ibrahimovic outshone by Portuguese marvel who knows how to pick up artefacts
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the winner on the night in the World Cup 2014 qualifying play-off second leg at Friends Arena in Stockholm. Photograph: Pontus Lundahl/AP
Sweden 2 Portugal 3
Portugal win 4-2 on aggregate
No one likes him, but he doesn’t care, for Cristiano Ronaldo is going to the World Cup, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not.
On the day that the Portuguese newspaper Diario de Noticias reported that Ronaldo is set to open a museum in homage to himself next year on his home island of Madeira the selecao’s totem once again proved that there is brilliance beneath the bluster, delivering Portugal to a major tournament via the play-offs for the third time in a row with a clinical hat-trick.
The Friends Arena appeared keen to undermine Sweden’s image as the laidback, compliant hosts from the off, loudly jeering the visitors’ anthem.
While Sweden did their best to dictate the play at the outset, a glut of misplaced passes suggested that Portugal’s main test on a chilly evening would be one of mental, rather than technical, fortitude.
It was not until the 50th minutes that Ronaldo put his side 2-0 ahead on aggregate, speeding onto Joao Moutinho’s through pass to strike left-footed past Andreas Isaksson.
The stuffing seemed knocked out of a hitherto willing team and its supporters, even as Sweden battled back gamely to little avail. If Portugal’s defensive resolve here had been part of their main qualifying campaign, they may well have saved themselves this nail-biter.
Then, the visitors reverted to type and Ibrahimovic belatedly made his mark, heading in Kim Kallstrom’s corner from close in after beating a curiously passive Bruno Alves. Ibrahimovic then got his superhero cape firmly on his shoulders, smashing in a pitiless free-kick from the edge of the area.
Portugal were panicking, but their hero came up with the goods again, running onto Hugo Almeida’s through ball and smashing home from an unforgiving angle. He greedily snaffled his treble soon after, gathering another Moutinho pass and rounding Isaksson before driving the ball high into the net to inspire a tracksuited Portuguese pitch invasion.