Ahead of Portugal’s crunch first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff against Sweden in Lisbon on Friday, Portuguese head coach Paulo Bento is adamant he has the best player in the world right now captaining his side.
For weeks since the draw was made pitting Portugal against Sweden for a place at the 2014 World Cup, the clash has been billed as a head on duel between Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The winner over these next two games will go to the World Cup, the other will be sulking at home all summer. This match up is monumental.
When asked who is the better player, Ronaldo or Ibrahimovic, Bento was crystal clear.
“For me it’s Ronaldo, without a doubt in my opinion,” Bento said. “He’s the player who has shown extraordinary quality and form throughout the year. It would be unfair if he doesn’t win the Ballon D’or this year for his performances, quality and professionalism. Regardless of what happens, for me, he is the best player in the world right now. No doubt.”
As for Zlatan, the 32-year-old Swedish international was sheepish when asked about facing Ronaldo’s Portugal and the individual battle.
“It’s no me talking about Ibrahimovic against Ronaldo, it’s the media talking about it,” Ibrahimovic said. “It doesn’t disturb me at all. This is part of my professional work, we don’t decide who to talk about, it’s the media. They’ve built up this tension around the game.”
What a game it promises to be in Lisbon… (watch live on ESPN Deportes at 2:40pm ET) but who will have the edge?
Let’s take a look at the stats from World Cup qualifying so far.
Ronaldo has played eight times for Portugal, scoring four goals and adding two assist. While Ibra had played nine times and smashed home six goals and six assists.
Billed by many as a clash between two of soccer’s most talented yet cocky, stars, be sure you don’t miss out on what could be one of the greatest head-to-head battles for quite some time in international soccer.
My money is on Ronaldo to do the business, who’ve you got?