by Chris Wright, in Sport · 21-11-2013 12:53:00 · 0 Comments
A Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick booked Portugal’s place in the FIFA World Cup finals in Brazil next summer.
In a match that Sweden clearly needed to pursue from the onset, Paulo Bento surprisingly included Almeida in the starting line-up in an effort to combat the height and strength of the Swedish defenders.
The opening quarter hour was very nervy with neither team capable of putting together a coherent string of passes. The first chance of the match fell to the visitors as Moutinho’s free-kick found the head of Alves who brought a terrific save out of Isakkson. At the other end Martin Olsson spun away from Nani and unleashed a fierce shot that went wide. Then Ronaldo had a couple of chances in quick succession as Portugal began to take control. Almeida should have opened the scoring when he headed wide from Ronaldo’s perfectly placed cross.
Three minutes before the break Sweden had their first shot on goal but Rui Patricio saved well from Kallstrom. Both teams upped the tempo in the second-half and Rui Patricio saved brilliantly from Sven Larsson. Suddenly it was all action as Sweden poured forward but Portugal were equal to the task.
João Moutinho picked out Cristiano Ronaldo with a stunning forty metre pass and the Portuguese captain took two touches to bring the ball onto his left foot before firing a wonderful effort into the far corner past a helpless Isakkson. Portugal proceeded to frustrate the home side for the next quarter hour, but the goal, as they often do, bred complacency in the Portuguese defence and Sweden scored a very soft equalizer as Ibrahimovic headed home a corner without so much as a challenge from any red-shirted defender. The Swedes surged forward and Ibrahimovic scored another with nearly twenty minutes left to play.
2-1 up and Sweden were certainly in the ascendancy and looked the more likely winners. Cristiano ‘Captain Marvel’ Ronaldo then turned on the magic. He used his blinding speed to outstrip the Swedish defence and score again with a clinical finish from a very tight angle.
The Real Madrid super star was simply unplayable and when he found himself in the clear again he was able to take his time, sidestep the onrushing Isakkson, and complete an incredible hat-trick to send the home fans streaming to the exits with more than ten minutes to go.
Even then Ronaldo continued to torment the Swedish defence, only narrowly missing the target on at least three more occasions as the visiting fans sang his name. A memorable game in which Zlatan Ibrahimovic was good but Cristiano Ronaldo was supreme. The 4-2 aggregate victory was testimony that Portugal, with Ronaldo at the helm and in this type of form, could make their mark in Brazil next July.