Portugal vs. Sweden: 2014 World Cup Playoff Dates, Fixtures and Preview
Portugal’s road to the 2014 World Cup is blocked by Sweden.
Paulo Bento’s team—which finished second in Group F behind Russia—has been handed a challenging task against Erik Hamren’s squad in undoubtedly the standout pairing of the World Cup playoff draw.
The two-legged ties will take place on Nov. 15 and 19, with Portugal hosting first. Away goals will be taken into account should the score finish level after 180 minutes.
The playoff draw always threatened to throw up a clash of two giants.
Both Bento and Hamren will be disappointed to face opponents who are more than capable of ending their respective nation's hopes of reaching Brazil.
As ever with both of these sides, the performances of certain star players will play a huge role in achieving success.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have the quality to snatch victory for their country and will be called upon to lead their sides into battle. Ronaldo currently has four goals in eight games for the Portuguese this campaign, while Ibrahimovic has six in eight for Sweden, as reported by FIFA's official website.
Portugal’s disappointing World Cup qualification campaign concluded with a 3-0 win over Luxembourg, but there’s a real sense that Bento’s team are ready for the taking. Draws with Northern Ireland and Israel, plus a vital loss to group winners Russia, ensure the nation’s confidence continues to suffer.
Sweden made it out of Group C with just one blip.
Having already confirmed second place, losing 5-3 to Germany is by no means a result to get concerned about, especially as Joachim Loew’s team gained an automatic World Cup spot with an unbeaten run and are widely expected to challenge for the tournament's ultimate prize.
The Swedes made their German hosts pay in the previous fixture, securing a marvellous 4-4 draw after being 4-0 down within 53 minutes at Berlin’s Olympiastadion.
Sweden should be considered a powerful, resilient side that is galvanised by having grounded expectations, which cannot be said for Portugal.
Should the likes of Ronaldo, Joao Moutinho and Pepe miss the World Cup, it will be classified as nothing short of failure for a team that continues to come up short.
The golden generation of Luis Figo, Rui Costa and Sergio Conceicao came and went without success, a trap the current crop could also fall into if they fail to reach Brazil.
Which country will qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil?
Considering a 32-year-old Ronaldo will likely be showing signs of age by the 2018 tournament, this should be considered Portugal's greatest chance to win the trophy with the Real Madrid star at his peak.
Sweden will be pleased to return to Stockholm for a second leg that is likely to produce real drama. The Friends Arena is an intimidating place to play at the best of times, but with the home side needing a huge performance, Portugal face a stern test of character once their home advantage expires.
Can Ronaldo silence the all-yellow crowd or will Ibrahimovic create one of the country's biggest-ever parties?
The answer will arrive on Nov. 19.
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