Paris Saint-Germain forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has denied applauding Cristiano Ronaldo after the Portuguese star sealed his hat-trick and Portugal's place in the World Cup finals on Tuesday night.
Ibrahimovic was filmed clapping while Ronaldo celebrated his third strike, but contrary to reports suggesting it was a mark of respect to his opponent, the Swedish forward has insisted it was to encourage his fellow team mates.
"Was I applauding Ronaldo? No, I was just trying to encourage my team mates," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The World Cup playoff between the two countries had been billed as Ibra versus Ronaldo, and did not disappoint as the Real Madrid forward extended his side's aggregate lead in the second half before Sweden's number ten hit back with two goals of his own.
However, as is nearly always the case with Ronaldo, he had the last laugh by notching two further goals to seal his country's place in Brazil 2014.
The 32-year-old Ibrahimovic went on to add: "I clapped my hands together to cheer them up and motivate them for the last few minutes.
"We had already gone down before. It is important not to give up until the final whistle because the unexpected can always happen."
He wasn't completely dismissive of the 28-year-old, though, describing him as a "great player" - before suggesting the Swedish back line could've done more to stop the man who's netted five hat-tricks since October.
"He's obviously a great player, but we allowed him way too much space. Nobody's as good as he is on the counterattack. This game once showed his biggest qualities.
"Is he the best player in the world? I can only say that he scored one goal more than I did," said Ibrahimovic, in a way only he can.
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