Portugal claimed a 1-0 victory over Sweden last night in the first leg of their World Cup play-off courtesy of a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal at the Estadio Da Luz.
With a second leg still the come in Scandinavia the tie is very delicately balanced.
Unfortunately for the world one of the world’s most high-profile attackers will miss out on the competition, with Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo of Portugal facing each other in the play-off tie.
These are the sort of players that fans want to see at a World Cup, but one of them will not be at next year’s competition.
Both players have excited and enthralled us down the years in domestic football, but I think it is fair to say neither have been able to replicate that fantastic club form at major international tournaments.
Ronaldo is head shoulders above the rest of his Portuguese teammates and he often looks like he is trying too hard to win games on his own for his country. His ego probably tells him that he has to carry the team.
To a certain extent Ibrahimovic the arch-egotist himself, probably feels the same about his country. Both players have massive egos, but both can back it up with fantastic ability with a football.
To say that Ibrahimovic has been successful in his club career would be a massive understatement. The list of honours he has received throughout his career is incredible. Ibrahimovic has won domestic league titles in Holland, Italy, Spain and France.
The only title that has eluded him is the Champions League, which Ronaldo won with Manchester United in 2008. Ibrahimovic is often underrated by the English football press and fans because he failed to produce against English sides in Europe.
That all changed in 2012 when the mercurial striker scored four times against England, as Sweden defeated the Three Lions 4-2 in the opening game at the new national stadium in Solna. His fourth goal is now regarded as one of the most ingenious goals ever seen, as the striker produced an overhead kick from 30 yards with his back to goal.
Both Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are controversial characters. Ronaldo proved that in last night’s game by attempting to head-butt a Swedish player. Most of the controversy surrounding these two comes off the pitch though.
Both have a tendency for self-promotion off the pitch. Neither is backward at coming forward about their own abilities. In Ronaldo’s case some speculate that this has been one of the factors in the Real Madrid forward being overlooked for the Ballon d’Or.
They talk the talk, but fortunate for the pair they can play as well. Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are regarded as two of the best players of their generation. Some even claim that Ronaldo is a better player than current Ballon d’Or holder Lionel Messi.
Football is about entertainment and these two are entertainers. They are showmen that go onto the pitch to display their devastating skills and often destroy opponents. They try things that very few footballers are prepared to try, which is what football is about.
With the second leg of the play-offs still to come on Tuesday night the tie is really tight. It is hanging in the balance. The Ronaldo goal in Lisbon has given the Portuguese a slight advantage, but Sweden could make it tough for visitors on Tuesday night, especially if Ibrahimovic is on form.
Sweden are slight favourites to win the second leg at 13/8, but Portugal are not far behind at 9/5, while the draw is 11/5. Even the bookies are having a hard time separating these two teams, it is that tight.
Both countries will be looking to their key men to make the difference and get their country to the World Cup. Ronaldo came up trumps for the Portuguese in the first leg. Could Ibrahimovic be the one that makes the difference in the second leg?
He may well be, but one thing is for sure, the World Cup will be less colourful without one of the pair. Love them or loathe them, you have to respect their football ability and one of the pair will be displaying their skills in Brazil next year, unfortunately for spectators one of them will not.
Who will make it to the World Cup Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic?
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