Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo: Who Would We Miss More at World Cup?
One is a forward with a penchant for the spectacular who was won titles at six clubs and recently authored a fascinating, if not quirky autobiography.
The other is a former Ballon d’Or winner who is the best player of his generation not named Lionel Messi.
But only one of them will participate in the 2014 World Cup, which means the tournament will be deprived of a superstar, a spectacle and a talking point.
Thankfully, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo will determine between themselves who goes to Brazil and who stays home.
UEFA’s World Cup qualification playoff draw, held earlier this month, paired Ibrahimovic’s Sweden with Ronaldo’s Portugal, and over the course of two matches in mid-November, the two countries—and the two talismanic attackers—will go head-to-head in an effort to secure one of Europe’s final four places in the 2014 finals.
Sweden, having missed out on the 2010 event in South Africa, will no doubt be desperate to get back to world football’s centre stage (it would be their 12th World Cup appearance) while Portugal, who were ousted by Spain three-and-a-half years ago, have designs on a fourth successive finals and sixth overall.
But make no mistake: It will be the captains who will have the most to do with the results in Lisbon and Solna; it will be Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo the world will be watching on November 15 and 19.
Ibrahimovic—the 6'5" Paris Saint-Germain front man—is currently one of the form players in Europe. He has managed 11 goals from 14 matches in all competitions so far this season and has already tallied six times in the Champions League—four of which came in a superb performance away to Anderlecht on October 23.
Which player would you prefer to see at the 2014 World Cup?
He has also scored seven goals in nine matches for Sweden in 2013 and will go into the two legs against Portugal with 46 international goals from 94 appearances for his country.
Ronaldo’s statistics are eerily similar to those posted by Ibrahimovic.
The Real Madrid attacker has found the back of the net on 15 occasions already this season—seven times in the Champions League.
He has also scored six goals for Portugal in 2013 and has 43 international tallies to his name from 107 matches.
|Club goals (2013-14)||11||15|
|International goals (2013)||7||6|
|Total international goals||46||43|
|Knockout matches (World Cup/European Championship)||3||10|
Often maligned for failing to deliver at key moments for his country, he was spectacular at Euro 2012—putting the national team on his shoulders in a 2-1 win over the Netherlands that sealed progression to the knockout stages and then scoring the only goal against the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
At international level, Ronaldo—despite being four years younger than Ibrahimovic—has nevertheless gained considerably more big-game experience than the Swede, contesting a European Championship final in 2004 and helping Portugal to the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup and Euro 2012.
Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic are tearing apart the Champions League. It's a crime that one of these two is going to miss the World Cup.— ESPN (@espn) October 23, 2013
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, was part of Sweden sides that exited both the 2002 and 2006 World Cups in the Round of 16 and hasn’t played a knockout match at a major competition since that 2-0 loss to Germany more than seven years ago.
Of course, the winner of the Portugal-Sweden playoff is unlikely to be a serious contender in Brazil—a fact that only makes the individual matchup between the two players all the more compelling.
In Ibrahimovic football fans stand to miss out on one of the sport’s most fascinating personalities, nevermind one of its foremost artists, while in Ronaldo the World Cup could be without one of the finest attackers in recent times.
The good news is they’ll first lock horns in a compelling head-to-head, although while one will punch a ticket to the tournament proper, the other will watch it on TV like everyone else.
And that’s a shame.
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