Hamren backs Ibra to outshine Ronaldo

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: Has been in sublime form this season.

Sweden coach Erik Hamren says striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic can win his personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo and see them through their World Cup play-off with Portugal, which kicks off in Lisbon tonight (Estadio da Luz, 7.45pm).

The two teams meet in for the opening leg tonight before the return match at Stockholm’s Nationalarenan next Tuesday to decide who will progress to Brazil next summer.

Much has been made of the meeting between two of world football’s biggest stars: Paris St Germain star Ibrahimovic and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo. Both have been in sublime form so far this season and the tie could rest on which of them proves most accurate in front of goal.

“There’s lots of light on Zlatan,” said Hamren. “He’s a world-class player and our captain. But I don’t think it’s too much for him. He’s so used to that so it’s not problem for him.

“He’s been scoring a lot this season and last season too. It’s really good (for us) but you can also say Ronaldo has scored some goals, so I think it’s even between those players.

“If we are playing well as a team then he can be the match-winner.”

Elsewhere, Karim Benzema has confidently declared France “will qualify” for next summer’s World Cup as Les Bleus prepare to face Ukraine in the first leg of their play-off in Kiev tonight.

“We will give everything in these two games,” Benzema said. “We will qualify, I am sure. There is no choice.”

Meanwhile Romania striker Razvan Cocis believes his team-mates have what it takes to crack one of the meanest defences in the business and book their nation’s place in the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

Romania take on Greece in Athens and Cocis is well aware of the size of the task ahead.

Greece missed out on an automatic place in Brazil after finishing runners-up to Bosnia in Group G but they emerged with their reputation for strong defence intact after conceding just four goals in their 10 group games.

Cocis said: “We know Greece’s style of play — it is a team that plays defensively and tries to wait for its opponents to make a mistake and capitalise. Our goal is to score in the first game, but even if we draw 0-0 it is a good result for us.”


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