Cristiano Ronaldo: When Portugal star destroyed Sweden to secure World Cup spot

Cristiano Ronaldo's performance vs Sweden in 2013 is the stuff of legend

If Portugal are to reach the 2022 World Cup out in Qatar, they will have to emerge victorious in the dreaded European play-offs.

Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates simply had to avoid defeat against Serbia to automatically qualify for the tournament, but a late winner from Aleksandar Mitrovic condemned Fernando Santos' side to second-place in Group A.

The play-offs can be an absolutely ruthless environment and Portugal will have to be at their very best in March if they're to secure a World Cup spot.

As always seems to be the case, the onus will be on Ronaldo - the leading scorer in men's international football - to produce the goods for his country.

The 36-year-old rarely doesn't deliver for Portugal and back in 2013, the Manchester United man dropped arguably the greatest performance in the history of the European World Cup play-offs.

After securing a 1-0 home win, A Seleção travelled to Sweden knowing that all they had to do was avoid defeat.

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Everything looked good when Ronaldo put Portugal 1-0 up in the 50th minute, but the pendulum swung back in the hosts' favour thanks to a quickfire brace from Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

However, Sweden's spirited recovery was short lived.

In the 77th minute, Ronaldo struck for a second time, before superbly notching his hat-trick two minutes later to send Portugal to the 2014 World Cup.

Ronaldo celebrates vs Sweden

It really was breathtaking stuff from arguably the most clutch footballer ever and you can relive the five-time Ballon d'Or winner's masterpiece versus Sweden below.

Video: Ronaldo destroys Sweden to send Portugal to the 2014 World Cup

What. A. Player.

Mere mortals would quiver and then falter under such enormous pressure, but Ronaldo just seems to improve when the going gets tough.

Portugal will be hoping he can perform similar play-off heroics in 2022, by which time the great man will be 37 years old.

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Given his age, the World Cup out in Qatar will almost certainly be his final chance to win the most sought-after trophy in the sport of football.

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