When Sweden square off against Portugal, the world will be witness to two of the biggest superstars of European Club football. The sub-plot is so huge that it threatens to overshadow the match itself.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo are worshipped in Sweden and Portugal respectively. They are the shining lights of two teams, who let’s admit, are just decent. Nobody really gives them a chance of lifting the World Cup in Brazil next year. But each team does have a superstar.
It’s a huge travesty that one of Zlatan or Ronaldo has to miss out. Fans of Zlatan’s charisma, his penchant for the extraordinary, his ‘Zlatan-ness’ (yes there is no other word for it!) will desperately want his presence at the biggest show on earth.
A FIFA World Cup without a moment of Zlatan-ness will be incomplete. It’s a celebration of football down in Rio and nobody does it better than Zlatan. He is a cult on his own. A charismatic package of propeller kicks, flicks, back-heels, step-overs. No player’s highlights reel will be better than Zlatan. Not only is he Sweden’s favourite son, his brand of football is a YouTube favourite as well.
But then on the other hand, Zlatan’s presence at the World Cup will mean the absence of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. The intensity with which he has improved year on year is jaw dropping. His goalscoring rate in the last four years has astonished all and sundry.
Zlatan lights up games with moments of brilliance interspersed with the time spent in games being Zlatan. Its almost like he does something brilliant and then spends a lot of time admiring it.
Ronaldo, on the other hand, is an unrelenting machine that keeps the spectators delighted for 90 minutes. For all the preening, posturing and petulance, Ronaldo’s sheer relentlessness in his quest for perfection is something that is needed at the FIFA World Cup.
Ultimately, whoever misses out, the carnival in Brazil will be poorer for it. Zlatan may provide one or two wow moments at the tournament but it is Ronaldo who will sweep spectators of their seats with his unyielding, astonishing brilliance and consistency.
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