Portugal have squeaked out a close playoff tie in yet another major tournament qualifying cycle, this time sinking Sweden in a thriller. Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice as part of a Sweden comeback, but Cristiano Ronaldo flipped the game around and closed it out shortly after Ibrahimovic was done scoring, finishing off a hat trick in a 3-2 win.
The first half picked up where the first game of this tie left off: With both teams playing conservatively and creating their best chances on set pieces. Bruno Alves had the first big scoring opportunity of the game in the 15th minute, but Andreas Isaksson was able to stop his header. Seven minutes before the end of the half, Hugo Almeida missed an absolute sitter off a cross from Ronaldo, heading into the side netting.
Immediately, things got much more interesting in the second half. Ronaldo scored his first goal of the game in the 50th minute, giving his side a massive two-goal lead on aggregate to go along with an away goal, meaning Sweden would have to score three times to overtake them. Joao Moutinho set him up with a through ball and he struck a composed finish under pressure from inside the box, the first of three very similar shots.
Initially, Sweden didn't look like a team that knew they had to score three goals to go through, but Ibrahimovic fired them to life in the 68th minute. Off a corner by Kim Kallstrom, he stepped into the perfect spot and barely had to jump to reach the ball before he directed it into the back of the net. Four minutes later, he struck again, this time with a gorgeous direct free kick from just beyond 20 yards. In a matter of five minutes, Sweden went from being dead in the water to one goal away from World Cup qualification.
For the next five minutes, it looked like Portugal were on the ropes and in danger of conceding again, but Ronaldo struck again on the counter to alleviate the pressure on his team. Almeida set it up with a great diagonal ball, played with his back to the goal, and Ronaldo sprinted onto it before taking a touch and smashing a half-volley past Isaksson. Two minutes later, he struck again, hitting another half-volley from just inside the box off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net to seal the result.
Sweden: Isaksson, Lustig, Nilsson, M. Olsson, Antonsson, Elm (Svensson 46'), Larsson, Kallstrom, Kacaniklic (Durmaz 82'), Ibrahimovic, Elmander
Goals: Ibrahimovic (68', 72')
Portugal: Patricio, Alves, Pepe, Coentrao (Antunes 52'), Pereira, Veloso, Ronaldo, Moutinho, Meireles (Carvalho 73'), Nani, Almeida (Costa 82')
Goals: Ronaldo (50', 77', 79')