Most world soccer fans can agree on this: it is a darn shame that between Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Portugal magician Cristiano Ronaldo, one will not be at next year’s World Cup.
Portugal and Sweden meet in one of the upcoming home-and-away playoff series starting later this week, with those oh-so-valuable berths for Brazil 2014 on the line. Translation, that is 180 minutes of the tensest soccer in which any of these players will ever participate. For the rest of us, get the snacks ready and file this under “magnificent theater.”
Well, except for part about Ronaldo or “Ibra” being left behind.
Today comes the early trash talking from a man known to deliver some here and there. Just days after he made fun of Sacha Kljestan’s mustache – Don’t you listen to that clear bit of ‘stache envy, Sacha! – Ibrahimovic says Sweden deserves the bid more than Portugal.
What Ibrahimovic said today: “We have had tough matches during qualification but this has only stimulated us. Portugal are probably favorites given their team and their individuals, but we came second in a group featuring Germany and we deserve to go to Brazil more.”
Meanwhile, Swedish manager Erik Hamren was slightly more measured in his comments, although he did predict that his team would go through.
In talking about the Ronaldo-Ibrahimovic angle, Hamren said: “It’s fantastic for all football fans. They are two world-class players. It’s sad that one of them is going to miss the World Cup in the summer, but it’s going to be really exciting. …They are two players who can do the little extra and win the game for their country. But I’m sure it’s going to be Zlatan who does that for us.”