Ronaldo leads Portugal to World Cup-qualifying victory

  • Associated Press
  • Tuesday, November 19, 2013 4:41pm
  • SportsSports

SOLNA, Sweden — Portugal qualified for the World Cup after a superb hat trick from Cristiano Ronaldo secured a 3-2 win over Sweden and a 4-2 victory on aggregate in Tuesday’s thrilling finale to their playoff.

After a hesitant first half in which the Real Madrid forward missed several scoring chances, the much-awaited contest between two of the biggest names in world football — Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic — finally burst into life in a spectacular second half.

Ronaldo broke the deadlock, Ibrahimovic struck twice to make it 2-1 to the hosts on the night — only for Ronaldo to score two more to secure his team’s place in Brazil.

“To be honest I think in both games we played better than Sweden,” Ronaldo said. “I respect a lot Sweden, I think they have a fantastic team, they have experienced players, they have a good coach, but in both games we played better than them, we created more chances, we played solid.

“We have a mature team in these competitions, in (the) playoff, I think we deserved to win and we are the best team tonight.”

For his part, Ibrahimovic was sporting in defeat.

“Of course I’m disappointed. I wanted to play the World Cup,” he said. “We did our best. Unfortunately, we played against a better team, better than us no doubt.”

That difference only really showed through in an action-packed second half.

Four minutes after the break, Ibrahimovic provided a pass for Sebastian Larsson to take a shot that was saved by Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio. A minute later, Ronaldo opened the scoring, set up by a superb long pass by Joao Moutinho.

Ibrahimovic equalized with a header from a corner in the 68th minute. Three minutes later, Sweden won a free kick just outside the penalty area and Ibrahimovic fired home a fierce low shot to give the home team a 2-1 lead and raise a nation’s hopes of qualification.

However, the home fans among the nearly 50,000 spectators didn’t get to cheer for long.

As Sweden pushed forward in search of a third goal and a 3-2 lead on aggregate, its defense became vulnerable to the counterattack.

And Ronaldo, who scored the only goal in last Friday’s first leg in Lisbon made the home side pay.

Latching on to a pass by Hugo Almeida, Ronaldo raced through to equalize with a clinical finish in the 77th minute. He brought up his hat trick just two minutes later — this time collecting a defense-splitting pass from Joao Moutinho — and could even have added to his goal tally later.

Ronaldo, who described Ibrahimovic as “a fantastic player”, acknowledged that “it felt complicated for a moment after they scored 2-1… we suffered a little bit.”

Portugal coach Paulo Bento said he thought his team put up a good performance.

“We had to deal with some difficult periods, namely after the Swedish goals,” he said. “But even in that period we had a good reaction. I think we did it as an organization as a whole but of course we cannot underestimate how important is Cristiano for us.”

For Sweden coach Erik Hamren, the post-match was all about the pain of defeat.

“It just hurts right now,” he said. “It is a dream, an ambition that has died, it’s hurting for everyone, it’s really tough. Especially when we were close.”

More in Sports

Culture change leads Everett football to winning ways

The coach’s challenge and the players’ response has the Seagulls on the verge of the playoffs.

Seahawks’ Clark reflects on teammate Avril’s injury

The young defensive end and protege of the veteran sees how suddenly careers can change.

Stanwood wrestler Phillips commits to North Carolina

The senior verbally commits to join the Tar Heels after receiving interest from other major programs.

Silvertips struggling to turn shots into goals

Everett is creating more scoring chances than its opponents but needs to convert chances into goals.

Thursday’s prep stars of the night

Elizabeth Perenchio, Edmonds-Woodway volleyball Perenchio, a junior setter, dished out 44 assists… Continue reading

BLOG: Some WHL tidbits from a day between games

The Everett Silvertips skated Thursday following a Wednesday loss and in anticipation… Continue reading

Thursday’s prep sports results, recaps and links

Here are Thursday’s prep sports results, links and recaps: CROSS COUNTRY Cascade… Continue reading

Cougars to face top Pac-12 rushers in 3-week span

Washington State will have their hands full as they prepare for the conferences top rushing threats.

Huskies coach Petersen applauds work ethic of walk-on

John Gardner, a walk-on, is catching the eye of the Huskies head coach.

Most Read