Sweden v Portugal –
Final Score/Result: Sweden 2-3 Portugal
Man Of The Match: Cristiano Ronaldo
Portugal defeated Sweden 4-2 on aggregate to book a place in the World Cup as Cristiano Ronaldo scores a wonderful hat-trick.
Cristiano Ronaldo provided a slender lead in the first leg with his header right at the end, while Zlatan was largely anonymous. But the second leg saw both these geniuses at their best and the tie finally lived up to its hype in the second half of the second leg. Portugal’s overall superior quality finally made the difference, but while there was the joy of being able to see Cristiano Ronaldo in the world cup among the neutrals, there was also this sadness of missing out on Zlatan on the big stage.
Portugal started the match brightly and Bruno Alves was close to providing an early lead with an header from a free-kick only for Isaksson to pull out a wonderful save. Sweden showed greater intensity in this game than they managed to display in the first leg and dominated possession. But it was Portugal who created most of the chances and looked likelier of the two to score. Ronaldo gave few warning signs to the Swedish defence in the first half, where they allowed him time and space to shoot, and eventually in the second half he made them pay.
As Sweden pushed forward for the elusive goal, they left gaps at the back and in the 50th minute Cristiano Ronaldo exploited it brilliantly. The Real Madrid attacker was set through on goal by a through ball from Moutinho and Ronaldo nearly ran half the length of the pitch to eventually put the ball into the back of the net. It was the all-important away goal and it provided Portugal with a comfortable cushion for the rest of the second half.
But Zlatan and Sweden weren’t ready to give up without a fight. The PSG striker scored two goals in the space of four minutes to bring them back into the game. Zlatan’s first came from a corner as he headed home Kallstrom’s delivery. It was a nonchalant header as the big man shrugged off his marker. The second of his brace came from an amazing free-kick. Miguel Veloso fouled Johan Elmander and Zlatan stepped up to take the resultant free-kick. His thunderous low effort found its way through the wall and into the back of the net even before Patricio could react.
Sweden were tied on aggregate with Portugal, but Ronaldo’s away goal gave the away side a slender lead. The home side needed just one more goal to secure a place in the World Cup. At such a delicate moment of the tie Cristiano Ronaldo once again stepped up and showed why he is considered the favourite to win the Ballon d’Or this time. The 28-year-old scored two goals in the space of two minutes to settle the match and complete his amazing hat-trick.
Hugo Almeida set him up for his second and this time Ronaldo ran down the left to finish past Isaksson. His hat-trick was set up by a brilliant pass from Moutinho as Sweden were once again caught short in numbers at the back, but Ronaldo still had a lot of do after receiving the pass and took the ball past the on rushing goalkeeper to score past him. Sweden had to no option other than to push men forward in attack and Portugal had the quality in them to exploit the space on counter-attacks.
Paulo Bento was over the moon with the result and expressed his delight at having secured the qualification for the World Cup with such a wonderful performance away from home. He congratulated the players on this achievement and pointed out that keeping a clean-sheet in the first leg was crucial.
“Qualification was fair, and we have to enjoy the moment.
“We must also congratulate all the players who were not involved in the game and those who took part in the process of us reaching the World Cup.
“Not conceding goals in the first game was a big part of our strategy.
“In the first-half tonight we were not as we could have been but we still dominated – but we have to remember the players were under a great deal of pressure.
“Since 2000, Portugal has made every finals without a break and this generation needs to be congratulated.
“We have shown that we play better when we are under more pressure than when we are ahead,” he said.
“At 1-0 we had no problems and we dominated the first half, even though the first 30 minutes we were unable to play in the final third of the field.
“After our goal, we suffered two set pieces but we respond well and it was a deserved victory.” – The Portugal manager told the press.
Sweden v Portugal – Statistics
Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up and proved his class when it mattered the most. With lot of talks about who should win the Ballon d’Or, Ronaldo might have just settled the debate with his performance last night. The Real Madrid striker scored all the four goals for Portugal in this tie and has almost single-handedly taken Portugal through to Brazil. Now the big stage awaits this Portuguese genius.