Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal will entertain Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Sweden in the 2014 World Cup qualifying play-offs at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon on Friday, Novemeber 15 2013.
Unfortunately, this two-legged play-off tie means that only one of the aforementioned superstars will be at next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
Both Ronaldo — 1/1 to score at anytime on Friday evening — and Ibrahomvic enter Friday’s crucial clash on scintillating goal-scoring form for their respective clubs.
The Portuguese has tallied nine goals and two assists in his last four appearances in all competitions, while the Swede has netted 10 times in five matches.
The last two meetings between these sides — in March 2009 and October 2008, respectively — yielded zero goals despite the talismanic presences of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
But Friday’s first leg is entirely different from their previous encounters, as we are no longer in the group stage of UEFA World Cup qualifying.
This element tips the balance in favour of the Portuguese, who are better at the back and more experienced in the play-off format.
Furthemore, Ronaldo and co. are undoubtedly the better counter-attacking side, which will likely play a factor in the second leg at the Friends Arena in Solna next Tuesday.
Away goals may determine which side progress to the World Cup in Brazil next summer and, as alluded to, Paulo Bento’s side have the better chance of unlocking the Blågult defence, which let in five goals in their last qualifier against Germany, than vice versa.
Head to Head
Portugal 0 - Sweden 0 (28 Mar 2009)*
Sweden 0 - Portugal 0 (11 Oct 2008)*
*2010 World Cup Qualifying
|15 Oct 2013||Portugal 3 - Luxembourg 0||World Cup Qualifier|
|11 Oct 2013||Portugal 1 - Israel 1||World Cup Qualifier|
|11 Sep 2013||Brazil 3 - Portugal 1||International Friendly|
|6 Sep 2013||N. Ireland 2 - Portugal 4||World Cup Qualifier|
|14 Aug 2013||Portugal 1 - Netherlands 1||International Friendly|
|15 Oct 2013||Sweden 3 - Germany 5||World Cup Qualifier|
|11 Oct 2013||Sweden 2 - Austria 1||World Cup Qualifier|
|10 Sep 2013||Kazakhstan 0 - Sweden 1||World Cup Qualifier|
|6 Sep 2013||Ireland 1 - Sweden 2||World Cup Qualifier|
|14 Aug 2013||Sweden 4 - Norway 2||International Friendly|
Goalkeepers: Rui Patrício (Sporting), Beto (Sevilla), Eduardo (Braga)
Defenders: André Almeida (Benfica), Antunes (Malaga), Bruno Alves (Fenerbahçe), João Pereira (Valencia), Fábio Coentrão (Real Madrid), Pepe (Real Madrid), Neto (Zenit) Ricardo Costa (Valencia)
Midfielders: William Carvalho (Sporting), Miguel Veloso (Dynamo Kiev), João Moutinho (Monaco), Josué (FC Porto), Raúl Meireles (Fenerbahçe), Ruben Micael (Braga)
Forwards: Bruma (Galatasaray), Ronaldo (Real Madrid), Hugo Almeida (Besiktas), Hélder Postiga (Valencia), Éder (Braga), Varela (FC Porto), Nani (Manchester United)
Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasımpaşa), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Heerenveen), Johan Wiland (Copenhagen)
Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna), Pierre Bengtsson (Copenhagen), Andreas Granqvist (Krasnodar), Adam Johansson (Göteborg), Mikael Lustig (Celtic), Per Nilsson (Nuremberg), Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion), Martin Olsson (Norwich City)
Midfielders: Jimmy Durmaz (Gençlerbirliği), Rasmus Elm (CSKA Moscow), Alexander Kačaniklić (Fulham), Kim Källström (Spartak Moscow), Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland), Anders Svensson (Elfsborg), Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow), Erkan Zengin (Eskişehirspor)
Forwards: Johan Elmander (Norwich City), Alexander Gerndt (BSC Young Boys), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain), Ola Toivonen (PSV Eindhoven)
Possible Starting Lineups
Portugal: Rui Patricio; João Pereira, Bruno Alves, Pepe, Coentrão; Meireles, Moutinho, Veloso; Nani, Postiga, Ronaldo.
Sweden: Isaksson; Lustig, Antonsson, Nilsson, M. Olsson; Elm, Kačaniklić, Larsson, Svensson, Wernbloom; Ibrahimović.
Paulo Bento: “It’s going to be very complicated and competitive, there is no favourite between the two teams.”
Erik Hamrén: “Portugal are clear favourites, but there are possibilities. Our ambition is to go to the World Cup.
“When they create chances we must have the margins on our side.
“There’s a lot that has to work and it’s a big challenge. If we make a mistake they’ll punish us immediately – that’s the level of this opponent.”
Portugal 2 – Sweden 0 (11/2)