Only one of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic will make the 2014 World Cup. Such is the fickle nature of World Cup qualifying -- and their teams' failure to win their groups -- where playoffs are left to determine the tournament's final teams*.
* The draw is also at fault, pairing together the two. Screw you, math and chance.
Two teams, two legs, one spot in Brazil. That's what Portugal and Sweden are down to, but here is the rub: nobody cares about Portugal and Sweden. This is Ronaldo vs. Zlatan and the only 20 players on the pitch are just decoration.
And who wins a one-on-one battle?
Zlatan starts things off easy. Seeing as 10 of the Portuguese are merely decorations he dribbles through them all and finishes to take a 1-0 lead. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy,
Zlatan's lead didn't last long, though. One of the Swedish decorations unwittingly took down Ronaldo and before anyone knew what had hit them, the match was level at 1-1. What had hit them was a bullet disguised as a free kick.
Ronaldo was not done, either. He had a backheel waiting for Zlatan. So he's spinning and facing the wrong direction, whatever. It's also Friday.
The problem for Ronaldo is Zlatan also has a back heel. A better back heel.
The match was level, but it looked like things had turned Ronaldo's way as Zlatan started to move further and further away from goal. It was almost as if Zlatan had conceded. He hadn't. He just upped the level of difficulty.
Needing a goal to level and with stoppage time approaching, Ronaldo was looking for an opening, only he didn't find it. So he made one.
Out-numbered, but unfazed, he turned everyone he saw inside out and punished the net. He didn't even break a sweat doing it and, as always, his hair was impeccable.
If Ronaldo is anything, he is ruthless. A draw would not do, so he went in search of the win and brought the hammer down on Zlatan,
Game. Set. Match. Or was it?
Time was about to run out, but time does not apply to Zlatan. Neither does reality.
When the full time whistle went, fireworks went off -- ones that paled in comparison to the ones set off by Ronaldo and Zlatan. They had played to a 4-4 draw, but there was a loser, namely physics. There was also a winner: everyone in the stadium.
With the tie level after 90 minutes, there was a proposal put forward to move the second leg to a neutral site. It was a brilliant idea.