Ronaldo and Zlatan

WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic – Who You Got?


When asked last month about who he preferred, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo, FIFA president Sepp Blatter noted his marginal preference for the former but not without noting that a third name has now entered the ring: Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

For FIFA and the world at large, perhaps the biggest downside of the 2014 World Cup is that audiences will only be able to watch two of these players come next summer.

Messi will be one of them. But either Ronaldo or Zlatan will not be in Brazil.

Merely writing that last sentence is incredibly painful. It’s a realization that I, like yourself (presumably), am not ready to come to grips with.

This cruel reality will play itself out over the course of two matches, the first in Portugal this Friday and the second in Sweden next Tuesday.

Upon collecting his seventh Swedish national footballer of the year award in eight years, Ibra discussed why his country is more deserved of a place in Brazil. “We finished second in a very hard group, while they finished second in one they should have won,” said the striker.

It’s a position that is backed in fact. As they so often do in qualifying, Portugal took a relaxed approach. Taking only two points from Israel and drawing with Northern Ireland in Lisbon, Portugal gifted Russia first place in the group and automatic qualification to Brazil.

Sweden, on the other hand, came second in a group with world-powerhouse Germany, who the Swedes lost to in a 5-3 thriller before managing a 4-4 draw in Berlin.

Yet despite each country’s qualifying form, most would agree that Portugal has the better potential for a deep World Cup run. In addition to CR7, they possess great talent in the likes of Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho, Pepe, Nani, Bruno Alves and Helder Postiga.

When they’re up for it they can be great, as displayed in their semi-final run in Euro 2012. But too often, whether prompted by boredom or over-sized egos, the Selecção suffer let-downs.

Which is where Sweden excel. They are consistent, always play hard, rarely drop focus and have long been known to slay giants when the big game comes.

Inevitably, however, your preference for this match has little do with Portugal over Sweden (or vice versa) and is all about Ronaldo or Zlatan.

Joe Prince-Wright and myself debate this exact topic in the video above. As we’re both long time backers of Ronaldo in his competition with Messi you’d think we’d be in agreement over who we want to see in Brazil. But that wasn’t the case.

So have a gander at our debate and let us know your thoughts on what is the most explosive topic of the week – Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic?

Klinsmann side-steps blame, calls USA-Mexico one of world’s best rivalries

Jurgen Klinsmann, USMNT
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The rivalry between the national soccer teams of the United States and Mexico is one of the fiercest and most unique of its kind in the world of sports. Anyone who’s participated in, or simply attended, a competitive fixture between the two sides will immediately attest to that.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

Speaking to ahead of Saturday’s clash against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, it’s quite interesting to hear current USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann describe the rivalry from his point of view, both before and after having coached in it on a number of occasions.

Before we get to that, though, Klinsmann had a bit more blame side step regarding his side’s fourth-place finish at the 2015 Gold Cup, the USMNT’s worst-ever showing at the tournament for CONCACAF nations.

Q: What did you learn from this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, where you lost to Jamaica in the semi-finals?

A: There were so many things that happened in the tournament and decisions that were made that affected the outcome. It was difficult for the players to know what to expect. For Mexico and for Panama it was the same thing. The lesson is that you just have to roll with it and try to control the things you can.

What’s the no. 1 thing players can’t control? Who gets called into the team/plays in the games.

What was the no. 1 problem for the USMNT at this summer’s Gold Cup? Who got called up/played game after game despite performing very poorly. Ultimately, it’s what undid them in the semifinals and third-place game.

Just once — once — would it hurt Klinsmann to answer a question with an “I,” or “me,” or even “we?” The question was “What did you learn,” yet the answer always come back to “the players,” or “they,” or “them.” At this point, Klinsmann either believes he’s infallible, or he’s simply trying to see how many ridiculous statements he can get away with.

Q: You’ve been in the top US job for almost five years now and you’ve met Mexico many times. How would you define the rivalry between these countries on the pitch? Can you compare it with others you’ve experienced?

A: The USA-Mexico rivalry is one of the greats in world football. For me, it compares to Germany-Holland in terms of the intensity and emotion it brings out in the fans. As USA coach, it was a learning curve to understand how much this rivalry means to our fans. We had won some games against big nations, but the reaction from everyone to when we went down to [Estadio] Azteca and beat Mexico there for the first time was just amazing.

Q: What makes the rivalry unique?

A: What is unique is that there are so many Mexican-Americans living in the United States, so the rivalry crosses borders. We have seen many times in these last years that younger Mexican-Americans will wear a Mexico jersey to our game, and when we start doing well they take it off and have a U.S. jersey underneath! More and more they’re supporting us, and we hope to continue to win them over.

Klinsmann gets this one absolutely right. With the two countries situated right next to each other, the aforementioned immigration of so many Mexican soccer fans into the U.S., and the classic battles between the two sides over the years, USA-Mexico not only feels amazing to get one over on your rivals, but perhaps more than anything it’s avoiding that feeling of defeat, of embarrassment, of being taunted and haunted for days, weeks, months and sometimes years, that makes beating the old foe so satisfying.

Ozil, Coquelin: Arsenal can win the title this season

Mesut Ozil, Arsenal FC
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I suppose, in theory, that any Premier League club that fields a team could win the league title for a given season, so the above headline could have been written in reference to any one of 20 teams a few short weeks ago.

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Fast forward eight rounds of fixtures to the present day, and it’s becoming clearer and clearer with every passing week that it’s a three-horse race — Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United, who currently sit 1-2-3 atop the league — for the 2015-16 Premier League title.

So — and stick with me for just a second — why not Arsenal? [The crowd gasps loudly] Arsenal midfielders Mesut Ozil and Francis Coquelin believe the Gunners have what it takes to win the title this year, so why doesn’t anyone else?

Ozil and Coquelin, on Arsenal’s progression to title contenders — quotes from the Guardian:

Ozil: “We have a great team with many world-class players. Our goal is to win the Premier League and I think that this season it’s possible to do it, if we all stay healthy. But the season is long.”

Ozil: “I didn’t expect [Bayern Munich] to beat Dortmund 5-1. Their recent results show they are simply in great shape … But our victory against Manchester United was a sign: when we play and want it 100 percent, then we can beat Bayern.

“We are playing at home. Although we have respect for them, we don’t have any fear. We know how to score goals against Bayern and we can be successful. It will be difficult – but we have the potential to beat any team.”

Coquelin: “We proved a lot of people wrong. Inside the dressing room we knew we could do good things this season. We knew we could be contenders, but obviously we have to be consistent.

“We are getting stronger against the big teams. We beat City last season, now United. It’s all about consistency. The league is getting tougher, so we need to be getting results every week … We knew we had to put it right after Olympiakos and that’s what we’ve done.”

Coquelin is absolutely right — no one expected Arsenal to throttle Man United the way they did on Sunday. The Gunners acquitted themselves quite well, though it should be mentioned that Louis Van Gaal set up United to fail miserably with the immobile midfield duo of Michael Carrick and Bastian Schweinsteiger against a quick, dynamic Arsenal unit.

[ MORE: “Super computer” predicts final Premier League standings ]

That’s not meant to take anything away from Arsenal’s scintillating performance, because they did exactly what they should be doing against a poorly planned side — that’s not always been the case for Arsenal against top teams. The Gunners will play hosts to Man City on Dec. 19; perhaps we’ll better be able to dub them contenders or pretenders based their showing that day.