Just after the World Cup play-off draw was made, there was a stark realisation across the footballing world that something would be missing in Brazil next summer. As Portugal’s name was lined up alongside Sweden’s, we immediately had to get used to the prospect of either Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo or PSG’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic not being at the tournament.
You want to see the best players in the world on the biggest stage of them all so a World Cup without one of the most in-form players on the planet just feels wrong. And in an extremely harsh way, it is all Portugal’s fault.
After a terrible start to the campaign which saw them drop points in three of their first five qualifiers, including at home to Northern Ireland, they were within touching distance of topping their group, only to concede a late equaliser at home to Israel in their penultimate qualifier, falling into the lottery of the play-offs in the process. On the other hand, Sweden were drawn against Germany so it was always going to be near impossible to gain automatic qualification, making these play-offs inevitable.
But who will come out on top in this two-legged affair and make to the World Cup, Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic?
They are two great goalscorers. You will not find two more in-form strikers in the whole world currently, both the forwards are coming into this game off the back of impressive hat-tricks last weekend. In total, Ibrahimovic has netted eight times in the league and seven times in four games in the Champions League, making that 15 in all competitions for all you mathematicians out there.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Goals Scored (Ligue 1):
Although Ibrahimovic’s goal record is astonishing, Ronaldo has been on a completely different level to anyone this season. He has bagged 16 league goals and eight Champions League goals already, making his season tally 24 already.
Cristiano Ronaldo Goals Scored (In La Liga)
On the international stage, however, Ronaldo has failed to be as prolific throughout his career. Despite saving Portugal from a humiliating night in Northern Ireland, he has been outscored by Ibrahimovic so far in 2013, seven to six.
In terms of helping create chances for their club sides, Ronaldo has created 28 chances in all competitions, notching up five assists in the process.
Ronaldo Total Chances Created
Zlatan Ibrahimovic Total Chances Created
Ronaldo’s individual statistics are the more impressive but Ibrahimovic is capable of creating something out of nothing. Portugal are the slight favourites going into the tie as the players around Ronaldo are slightly better than Sweden’s, but it does not mean you can write off the genius of Ibrahimovic. His bicycle-kick goal against England last November proved that he is capable of absolutely anything.
With the hopes of a nation on their shoulders, the duo will go head-to-head this week for a place at the World Cup and although we would rather see them both there, it is sure to be a monumental battle.