The scoreline favors Portugal, the Seleccao using Cristiano Ronaldo’s late header to claim a 1-0 lead on Sweden, but for some, that one-goal, first leg result amounts to holding serve – the minimum margin a team should take from the home leg of their World Cup playoff. Though Paulo Bento’s team have the added benefit of having kept a clean sheet (denying Sweden a crucial away goal), right now, they’re still shooting par.
That’s the theory Ronaldo seemed to embrace after today’s result.
“[I]t’s not done yet,” the Seleccao captain told Portuguese radio shortly after scoring his 44th international gaol. “It remains 50/50 chances for both teams, in my opinion.”
Ronaldo meet Sweden left back Martin Olson to Miguel Veloso’s 82nd minute cross, heading home the only goal in Lisbon. Portugal had also generated close chances through João Moutinho (fifth minute) and Helder Postiga (50th), but for much of Friday’s match, a well-organized Sweden seemed capable of returning home with a 0-0, having held their hosts to three shots on goal.
After pulling out a slim win, Bento agreed with his star attacker, calling the victory “an important step to reach the World Cup but not yet decisive.”
“We created a great early chance and Sweden hit back,” Bento told reporters post-match. “But in the second half it was one way for us.”
One way may an understatement. At halftime, each team had taken six shots, but by the end of the match, Portugal had a 19-6 edge, having held 68 percent of the match’s possession.
“We managed to counter Sweden’s direct football,” Bento said. “I don’t think their football will change much in their home leg, maybe perhaps press a bit higher.”
Sweden will certainly have to open up next Tuesday, with Erik Hamrén’s team only putting two shots on Rui Patricio. After the game, the Sweden boss hinted his team may have been playing for a clean sheet.
“We would have been very happy with a draw,” Hamrén said. “We played a good game defensively, the goal was unnecessary, we were careless with that cross.”
The playoff resumes next Tuesday at Friend Field in Solna, with Portugal looking to qualify for their fourth straight World Cup.