Next summer’s World Cup tournament brings soccer back to Brazil, where legend after legend has emerged and stamped their mark on the beautiful game. The greatest international competition is going to provide the world with a plethora of superstars fighting for supremacy, but two of the world’s biggest talents have to battle it out for a place in Brazil. And unfortunately, only one of these legends will be able to play.
One of the biggest stories surrounding the approaching Word Cup is the tie between Portugal and Sweden where two giants in Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimović will square off to try and book their ticket to Brazil. Ronaldo and Ibrahimović are arguably two of the best players in the world and their attacking talent is without question.
Ronaldo won the Balon d’Or in 2008 and has come in second in the running a whopping four times since 2007, along with winning multitudes of personal accolades, multiple league titles and racking up goals and creating highlight reels on a weekly basis. At 28, the mercurial Portuguese attacker still has some great years left to play especially considering his physical shape and intense dedication to the game. But he’s not getting any younger and with emerging sides like Belgium, the competition is only getting fiercer and his chance to win with Portugal may be slipping by the wayside.
His counterpart, Zlatan Ibrahimović, is 32 and produces the spectacular on a regular basis and even has a word named after him in Swedish. Zlatan has won 10 league titles, scoring titles in Serie A and Ligue 1 and is widely regarded as one of the top footballers in the world, certainly one of the top 5 strikers in the world. At 32, this could possibly be his last World Cup while Ronaldo certainly has another left in him. It seems almost unfathomable to imagine a World Cup without Ronaldo or Zlatan in their current form, but Sweden was edged out of the World Cup by Portugal in 2010 so this predicament has been faced before. The absence of either player will be a shame so it is unfortunate that only one of them will have the opportunity to play, but the competition would be that much sweeter if we were able to watch Zlatan conjure the spectacular while Ronaldo does what he does best.
Two of the finest players in the world who have yet to hoist a World Cup trophy for their countries face a difficult battle beginning November 15 when they meet each other for the first leg of their playoff spot competition. The big Swede and company will look to upset Ronaldo and his boys in what is sure to be a thrilling contest between two of the fiercest competitors in the game.
Programming alert: Portugal vs Sweden will be televised in the United States on Friday live at 2:45pm ET on ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.com. The second leg will be shown on Tuesday at 2:45pm ET on ESPN2, ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN.com.