Ronaldo 1, Zlatan 0.
Portugal’s captain was the difference against Sweden on Friday, scoring on a diving header in the 81st minute to give his country a slim advantage ahead of the return leg in the World Cup qualifying playoffs tie:
Video by all-goals
Days earlier, Ronaldo’s foil and Sweden’s talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic had talked the talk, but then failed to walk the walk.
"I think that the World Cup needs Zlatan more than Ronaldo," Ibrahimovic said. "The excitement I can bring to the game and the goals I can score - nobody can rival me for that. I believe the fans would want to see me there above anybody."
Alas, Zlatan and his Zlataneers provided rarely any excitement in the first leg, getting out-shot 19 to 6 by Portugal and having possession only 32% of the match, according to WhoScored.com. Ibra had a shockingly quiet game; he mustered just a single attempt on goal and was only otherwise spotted when he either fouled or drifted offside.
Then again, someone probably needs to get the ball to him. The Swedes turned in an astonishingly bad pass completion rate of 58%. That’s right, almost every other pass failed to find a teammate. Barring a complete turnaround performance in Solna on Tuesday, the World Cup will have to take place without Zlatan. Pouty face.