World Cup round-up: King Cristiano!

World Cup round-up: King Cristiano!

Portugal faced Sweden in Solna on Tuesday evening (November 19) for their Brazil 2014 second leg play-off final, guarding a precarious 1-0 advantage from the two sides’ first meeting in Lisbon the previous Friday.

In the event, Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to his superstar label and delivered one of the most important performances to date in the colours of the national team. Following a goalless opening 45 minutes during which manager Paulo Bento’s eleven always had the upper hand, Portugal’s emblematic winger finally found the back of the net five minutes after the re-start to put Portugal one up on the night and 2-0 on aggregate.

However, just as Brazil seemed within touching distance, Sweden’s very own superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, scored twice in quick succession to leave the match hanging in the balance tied at 2-2.

As the Swedes poured forward in search of the winner, two sublime finishes on the counter attack in as many minutes from ‘King’ Ronaldo sealed both his personal hat-trick and qualification for next year’s World Cup finals.

On the same night, France recorded a 3-0 victory over the Ukraine in Paris to overturn their 2-0 away leg deficit and join Portugal in Brazil alongside fellow European play-off winners Greece and Croatia.

Meanwhile, England followed their 2-0 defeat to Chile last Friday with a further Wembley setback against a second string German eleven and Roy Hodgson will have his work cut out moulding a team capable of competing on the biggest stage in seven months’ time.

Closer to home, Gibraltar made their debut as a full UEFA member at their new Stadium of the Algarve ‘home’ ground holding out for a goalless draw against vastly more experienced Slovakia.