Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant hat trick in a thrilling encounter in Stockholm to ensure his team a place in the 2014 World Cup finals as Sweden failed to reach the World Cup for the second consecutive time.
After Portugal had won the first leg of this two legged playoff, thanks to a Cristiano Ronaldo header, Sweden needed a solid performance at home to keep the Portuguese at bay.
The build up to this playoff had been fantastic, and why not. It was a chance to see two of the best players in the World, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovich, take the field together. And one of them would miss out on the chance to play in Brazil.
The first leg held in Lisbon was a dull game. Although Ronaldo scored the winning goal, neither he nor Ibrahimovich could make the kind of an impact that they are capable of.
The second leg too began in a similar way as both teams failed to find the net in the first half. But what was more worrying was the quality of football being played. There were inaccurate crosses, vague attacks and some very poor passing from both the sides. But what followed in the next 45 minutes was something that justified the hype that this game had created.
Just after half time, Ronaldo collected a wonderful through ball from Moutinho and put Portugal forward with a deadly left foot strike that left the home crowd stunned.
Sweden now needed to score 3 goals in the next 40 minutes to deny the Portuguese a World Cup berth. Ibrahimovich took the matter in his own hands, pulling one back after 67 minutes as he headed home a corner.
Four minutes later, Ibrahimovich raised hopes of a brilliant comeback, when he rifled a free-kick through the wall 18 minutes from time to level the tie 2-2 on aggregate, as the home crowd burst into celebration.
Just when it looked Sweden had taken control of the game, Cristiano Ronaldo came in and spoilt the party once again. He levelled the score with a fine left foot finish in the 78th minute and then completed his hat-trick a minute later by rounding the keeper and netting once again, putting end to all the Swedish hopes.
In the end, it was fair that the better team won and Zlatan Ibrahimovich was left to do just too much on his own. Portugal reaching the World Cup can be considered good for the game of football as they were the better side in both the matches.
Although Ronaldo’s hat trick took the shine off Ibrahimovich’s performnace, one thing for sure is that Zlatan Ibrahimovich will definitely be missed at the 2014 World Cup.