Football

Cristiano Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic - Who will miss the World Cup?

2014 could be Ibrahimovic's last World Cup. (©GettyImages)
2014 could be Ibrahimovic's last World Cup. (©GettyImages).

The talk before the European World Cup play-offs was of the possibility of a Portugal v France match-up to decide who will make it to Brazil and who will have to watch it on TV from the other side of the world. That draw never happened, of course, but a perhaps more intriguing one did as Portugal drew Sweden - meaning that one of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will miss out on the World Cup party.

While it is a shame that one of these stars will miss out, a positive is that we will get to see these two greats captain their countries in what will surely be a passionate wo legs. So who is more likely to win?

It might be hard to remember that this will not simply be a one-on-one match between Ronaldo and Ibra. Each will have a supporting cast of ten other players, but as Sweden coach, Erik Hamren was quoted by Reuters: "That’s interesting because you can have tactics and scouting but a world class player like Ronaldo or Ibra can change a game and do something extra."

While this tie could be decided by a sloppy back-pass from a defender or a goalkeeping howler, it is much more likely to be decided by a piece of magic from one of the tie's stars. Both can be a hero for their clubs one game and then non-existent in the next. The question of who progresses might come down to which of these two makes this tie their time to shine.

There is no doubting that these stars perform as well for their countries as they do for their clubs, with Zlatan scoring six of Sweden's last 12 goals while Ronaldo has scored five of Portugal's last 11.

The last three meetings between these sides have been drawn, with the most recent two ending 0-0. That suggests that one moment of Zlatan or Ronaldo genius could decide the whole tie and decide the whole qualifying campaign for these two nations.

In terms of favourites, the bookies have Portugal as slight favourites and that is most likely because Ronaldo's supporting cast includes the likes of João Moutinho and Hélder Postiga.

Sweden will have the advantage of having the second leg at home, however, on November 19, four days after the first match in Portugal. Sweden are also in better form, winning four of their five games since the summer (losing only to Germany) compared to Portugal's record of two wins in five.

It can also be argued that Sweden had a tougher journey to the play-offs, facing Germany, Austria and Ireland in a group much tougher than that of Portugal, who faced Russia, Israel and no other major tests.

It would be unthinkable to see Portugal and Ronaldo miss out on the World Cup but Zlatan and co are certainly capable of making that reality.

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Topics:
World Cup
Football
Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo

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