Final, 3-2 Portugal (Portugal wins 4-2 on aggregate): It’s hard to put into words what we witnessed in the second half.
Shouldering the hopes of their respective nations, the two soccer superstars raised their games to rarefied heights and put on a show, about which fans and pundits will be talking for years.
Ronaldo’s 50th-minute goal was only the prelude to what would come in the final half-hour. Portugal had a three-goal advantage until Ibrahimovic muscled his way into the affair and struck twice (in the 68th and 72nd minutes) in four minutes.
But Portugal caught Sweden on the counter-attack twice just ten minutes later. Ronaldo’s power, pace and precision finishing saw him score breakaway goals in the 77th and 79th minute, putting the series, and his duel with Ibrahimovic, to rest. Ronaldo’s performance was so sensational, Ibrahimovic applauded him after he finished his hat trick.
There were a few whistles from the Swedish crowd, but many more simply accepted the fact that their team fell to a foe of immeasurable ability. Ronaldo’s performances for club and country in 2013 befit his status as one of the greatest players the sport has ever seen. If there is ever a year when he will topple Lionel Messi and win the FIFA Ballon d’Or, this is it. Franck Ribery may disagree, but Ronaldo is the standout performer in the world’s game at this moment in time. Pressure brought the best out of Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, but the Portuguese superstar stood tallest when it mattered most.
That’s all for now and thanks for joining us. Let’s discuss this one on Twitter @NESNsoccer and Facebook. Be sure to keep an eye out for some news, fan reactions, analysis and opinion that is on the way on NESN.com.
92nd minute, 3-2 Portugal (Portugal leads 4-2 on aggregate): Portugal has one foot in Brazil, but Ronaldo is still hunting goals.
He almost made it four on the day when his toe-poked shot beat Isaksson but flew narrowly wide.
Ronaldo has literally carried his team to the promised land. See below.
Meanwhile, Ibrahimovic realizes that he won’t be playing in his third World Cup next summer.
87th minute, 3-2 Portugal (Portugal leads 4-2 on aggregate): Ronaldo goes on another barnstorming run down the right and fires from distance.
His drive flew just wide of the diving Isaksson at the near post.
It doesn’t look like he’s done scoring in this game.
83rd minute, 3-2 Portugal (Portugal leads 4-2 on aggregate): Ibrahimovic and Sweden have little hope left, but the big Swedish striker is still firing whenever he gets the chance to shoot, as his spinning effort proves.
79th minute, 3-2 Portugal (Portugal leads 4-2 on aggregate): That man Ronaldo has done it again. His third goal, of the half, appears to have booked Portugal passage to Brazil.
Both goals have come courtesy of counter-attacks. Moutinho set up Ronaldo’s third with another precise pass.
Here’s Ronaldo’s third goal (GIF via Reddit/Soccer):
77th minute, 2-2 (Portugal leads 3-2 on aggregate): Ronaldo has just scored again to tie the game and give his team the lead on aggregate goals.
Almeida provided the assist.
Here’s a photo of the moment before he sent the ball into the back of the goal.
And here’s a GIF of Ronaldo’s second goal (via Reddit/Soccer):
72nd minute, 2-1 Sweden (Tied 2-2 on aggregate): Ibrahimovic scores again. This time, he beats Patricio with free kick.
Miguel Veloso fouled Elmander just outside the area, giving the Swedes a free kick in a dangerous position. Ibrahimovic shot low and hard to beat the goalkeeper.
Here’s a look at “Ibra’s” free-kick goal (GIF via Reddit/Soccer):
68th minute, 1-1 (Portugal leads 2-1 on aggregate): We spoke too soon.
Ibrahimovic heads home Källström corner kick to give his team a little hope. He then makes a funny face at Pepe.
Here’s a photo of his header:
66th minute, 1-0 Portugal (Portugal leads 2-0 on aggregate): The second half has settled down after a frantic opening five minutes.
Portugal has largely retreated into a compact shell to repel Sweden’s attacks and deny Ibrahimovic space.
Sweden has seen more of the ball but can’t seem to create any dangerous opportunities.
Meanwhile, here’s a photo of Ronaldo and Nani celebrating the goal that will most likely secure Portugal’s passage to the World Cup:
50th minute, 1-0 Portugal (Portugal leads 2-0 on aggregate): Ronaldo draws first blood.
Sweden was playing a high defensive line when Joao Moutinho collected the ball near the center circle and played a well-weighted ball to Ronaldo.
Ronaldo outran Sweden fullback Martin Olsson over 50 yards before thumping his left-footed shot past Isaksson.
Portugal now has a commanding lead in this series. Sweden must score at least three goals to progress to Brazil, as Portugal’s road goal gives it the tie-breaker.
Here’s a look at Ronaldo’s goal (GIF via Reddit/Soccer)
49th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Ibrahimovic nearly set up the all-important first goal. He fought off Veloso at the by-line and found Sebastian Larsson, whose close-range shot was turned away by goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
46th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Veteran midfielder Anders Svensson has replaced Rasmus Elm in substitution aimed at boosting Sweden’s offence. The 37-year-old can help control the tempo, create danger from set pieces and provide a bit more attacking thrust than the more defensive-minded Elm.
Halftime, (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): The first half of this scoreless game has come to a close.
Neither team broke the deadlock in this tightly contested game, as both know that the first goal will swing the balance of the two-game series.
Ibrahimovic was largely absent from the first 45 minutes. His only shot missed the target, and he hasn’t had much involvement in Sweden’s build-up play. While he received almost zero service from his teammates, he must assume more responsibility in the second half. If he doesn’t, he could miss out on what would potentially be his last World Cup.
Ronaldo was involved in most of Portugal’s most dangerous moments. He headed high in the 33rd minute, had a shot saved a minute later, and controversially almost set up Almeida for the opener in the 38th. His lively performance reflects his status as Portugal’s captain, leader and legendary figure in the 21st century. It appears Ronaldo will be the primary reason Portugal either reaches or misses out on next summer’s tournament.
He gave Portugal the 1-0 aggregate lead it currently enjoys. It’s Ibrahimovic’s job to even things up.
ESPN’s Taylor Twellman got
45th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Ibrahimovic volleys a shot off of a corner kick but can’t find the target.
41st minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Sweden finally gets a shot, and Ibrahimovic created the move.
A teammate played it direct to Ibrahimovic, and he laid it off to a trailing Kim Källström, who shot high from distance.
38th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): There’s a bit of controversy here.
Sweden’s Johan Elmander was down (after colliding with Pepe — big surprise) in the Portugal third of the field, but the Portuguese launched a counter-attack anyway. Ronaldo ran onto a long ball, collected it on the right side of the area and crossed to Hugo Almeida.
Almeida’s header was wide of the post by a few inches. It would have been bedlam in Sweden had Portugal scored, as the “sporting” thing to do would have been to play the ball out-of-bounds so Elmander could receive treatment.
36th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Ronaldo has missed two chances in the last two minutes.
In the 34th, he cut in from the right and shot from distance, but Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson handled it with ease. Two minutes later, Ronaldo he shot just over the bar from around the penalty spot.
27th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Neither team has taken control of the game, possibly because neither of the superstars have managed to get many touches on the ball.
Both teams are defending deep and with numbers, leaving little space between the lines of defense and midfield. The game has also seen few counter-attacks, meaning neither Ronaldo nor Ibrahimovic have had many chances to influence proceedings.
21st minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): Ronaldo shoots high and wide from an impossible angle. His teammates are having words with him, while the Swedish crowd whistles his effort.
Sweden’s Crown Princess Victoria, left, and her husband Daniel are part of the capacity crowd attending the game.
13th minute, 0-0 (Portugal leads 1-0 on aggregate): We’re live. Finally.
There’s no telling what little things we missed, but there is no score after nearly a quarter of an hour.
FOX Sports says there was a problem with the host broadcaster, meaning few, if anyone, outside of the stadium know what transpired in the first 12 minutes of the game.
[tweet https://twitter.com/FOXFootballLive/status/402889046457720832 align=’center’]
Pregame: The starting lineups are in.
Ibrahimovic starts as the lone striker in Sweden’s lineup. Ronaldo will play on the left side of a 4-3-3, according to ESPN.
We’ll have the action technical difficulties are resolved and ESPN gets the feed from Sweden up and running.
2:30 p.m.: It’s not yet game time, but the mind games have already begun.
Yahoo Sports reports Sweden will try to use the climate to its advantage by opening the roof of the Friends Arena in Solna, Sweden, exposing both teams to a 20°F (-6°C) temperature and possible snow.
Better yet, as far as Ibrahimovic and the Swedes are concerned were the antics of the Scandinavian singer/songwriter Markoolio. He held a solo concert outside of Portugal’s hotel — at 7:15 a.m. — to give Ronaldo and his portugal teammates an early wake-up call.
See his show below.
8 a.m. ET: There can be only one.
Soccer may be the ultimate team sport, but it sometimes produces head-to-head matchups that we simply cannot ignore. This will be the case Tuesday, when the national teams of Sweden and Portugal meet with a place in the 2014 FIFA World Cup at stake.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo, captains of Sweden and Portugal respectively, are two of the sport’s greatest players. Both superstars are playing some of the best soccer of their illustrious careers, but one will be forced to watch the other pursue World Cup glory when next summer’s tournament kicks off. Such is the bad luck of the draw.
We’ll focus on Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo during the game, looking to point out ways in which they help their team overcome strong opponents in order to reach Brazil. Should “Ibra” score a with a lightning bolt or scorpion-kick, as he routinely does for his club, Paris Saint-Germain, you’ll hear it here first. Ronaldo simply dominates — week-in and week-out — for his club, Real Madrid, making him an odds-on favorite to win the 2013 FIFA Ballon d’Or Award, which recognizes world soccer’s best player. But he has felt some pain during his international career, particularly at the European Championships in 2004 and 2012.
Ronaldo’s diving header helped Portugal win the first of this two-legged World Cup playoff 1-0 on Friday. Portugal must stifle Ibrahimovic and hope for more Ronaldo heroics if it is to compete for a World championship in Brazil. Sweden has a similar task, as it stands just 90 minutes away from earning a spot in the World Cup.
Join us right here at 2:30 p.m. We’ll have all the action, as the two superstars vie for a place in the world’s biggest sporting event.
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