Ronaldo wins ding-dong battle with Zlatan for World Cup qualification

Ronaldo wins ding-dong battle with Zlatan for World Cup qualification

Sweden 2 Portugal 3 (Portugal win 4-2 on aggregate)

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a devastating hat-trick to fire Portugal into the World Cup finals at the expense of Sweden and win his highly-anticipated duel with fellow superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Ronaldo earned Portugal a narrow lead with a late strike in the play-off first leg and the Real Madrid ace was his side’s hero again with goals in the 50th, 77th and 79th minutes to seal a 4-2 aggregate win.

The Portugal captain’s last two goals came after Sweden had threatened to turn the tie on its head when, after trailing 2-0 overall, they battled back to 2-2 thanks to two goals in four minutes from talisman Ibrahimovic.

With 15 minutes to go it was anyone’s game, but two more clinical finishes from Ronaldo settled the contest in Portugal’s favour and means the Euro 2012 semi-finalists will be gracing Brazil next summer while Sweden skipper Ibrahimovic and his team-mates will be staying at home.

Portugal bossed the majority of the first half at the Friends Arena in Stockholm and home keeper Andreas Isaksson did well to keep out Bruno Alves’ downward header in the 15th minute before Ronaldo took centre-stage.

The £80million man had three attempts in five minutes just after the half-hour mark before setting up Hugo Almeida for a great chance that the Besiktas striker headed into the side-netting.

At that point it was all Portugal, but Sweden briefly threatened when Ibrahimovic laid the ball off to Kim Kallstrom, whose long-range effort was well-struck but too close to Rui Patricio.

The half then ended with the two superstars on the pitch missing reasonable half-chances, with Ronaldo skewing an effort horribly wide before Ibrahimovic volleyed over at the other end.

Both of those two players were heavily involved again as the second half started in barnstorming fashion.

Ibrahimovic showed great strength and determination to poke the ball back to Sebastian Larsson on the edge of the six-yard box and it needed a vital block from Patricio to keep the score goalless.

Moments later Portugal took the lead with a blistering counter-attack.

Joao Moutinho’s brilliant through-ball found the run of Ronaldo and he drilled a left-footed shot past Isaksson.

That left Sweden needing three goals to keep their World Cup dream alive, but Ibrahimovic gave them a lifeline when he easily held off the challenge of Alves to head home Kallstrom’s 67th-minute corner.

Seconds later Sweden felt they should have had a penalty when Kallstrom went crashing in the area under a challenge from Joao Pereira, but referee Howard Webb booked the home midfielder for diving.

Nevertheless, all the momentum was now with Sweden and three minutes later they won a free-kick right on the edge of the area.

It was tailor-made for Ibrahimovic and he did not disappoint, the Paris St Germain striker drilling a low shot through the wall and under Patricio to level up the scores at 2-2 on aggregate.

Sweden suddenly looked favourites, but Ronaldo showed why he is rated as the leading player on the planet alongside Lionel Messi as he wrestled back the initiative with two superb finishes and that proved decisive.

The first saw him latch on to Almeida’s through-ball and fire another left-footed shot beyond Isaksson, and then two minutes later he completed his hat-trick – his fifth for club and country in the last three months – when he rounded the Sweden goalkeeper and stroked into the gaping net.

More on this topic

Inspiration will come from the fans on Saturday, says John O’SheaInspiration will come from the fans on Saturday, says John O’Shea

Switzerland’s Shaqiri admits penalty award was a ’surprise’Switzerland’s Shaqiri admits penalty award was a ’surprise’

England beat Slovakia 2-1England beat Slovakia 2-1

Northern Ireland beat Czech Republic in World Cup qualifierNorthern Ireland beat Czech Republic in World Cup qualifier

More in this Section

Wales beat Hungary to qualify for Euro 2020Wales beat Hungary to qualify for Euro 2020

Northern Ireland hit for six in GermanyNorthern Ireland hit for six in Germany

Spurs will struggle to find better than Mauricio Pochettino, says Gary LinekerSpurs will struggle to find better than Mauricio Pochettino, says Gary Lineker

The highs and lows of Mauricio Pochettino’s time at TottenhamThe highs and lows of Mauricio Pochettino’s time at Tottenham


Tis the season for sequins and excess, but minimalists can stick to their style guns in the season’s next level neutrals. From low-key glitz that’s perfect for party wear to the wardrobe heroes with trans-seasonal appeal, slide into neutral for maximum style with minimal effort. Carolyn Moore reports.Low-key glitz for minimalists with this season's neutrals

How to plump, hydrate and get rid of spots fast before your Christmas party.The Skin Nerd: Getting your quick fix for the festive party season

Irish photographer Seamus Murphy brought music star PJ Harvey to Afghanistan to film part of their documentary, writes Esther McCarthy.Headlong into the war zone in new documentary

Kya deLongchamps shows us how to champion our environmentWinter greens: How to champion our environment this season

More From The Irish Examiner