A superstar matchup highlights the first leg of a European World Cup qualifying battle between Portugal and Sweden.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Sweden’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic are the key players in this encounter that goes Nov. 15 and Nov. 19. Ronaldo has four goals in eight matches, and Ibrahimovic has six goals in 10 matches.
There is no clear-cut favorite in this matchup, although most sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com had posted Portugal as the favorite at -138. Sweden, meanwhile, was sitting at +365 with a draw line at +260.
Portugal did not have the best World Cup qualifying campaign, as it headed into play as the group betting favorite, but it came in second behind Russia. It suffered just a single loss in group play, but it played in one of the weaker groups along with Russia, Israel, Azerbaijan, Northern Ireland and Luxembourg.
On the other side of the coin, Sweden was solid in qualifying with only two losses, one to a favored German squad that won the group and the other to third-place Austria. In Sweden, the top two in the group played to an epic 4-4 draw, as the Swedes rallied from a 4-0 deficit.
Joao Moutinho and Pepe must be the players to help out Ronaldo. If they fail, Portugal may be watching the World Cup matches from the comfort of their homes.
Sweden’s defense will be key in this match, as they gave up five goals in their last WC qualifier facing Germany and nine in two matches against them. The Swedes have the height advantage in this match and have to use that, especially on set pieces.
Portugal comes into this match after a 3-1 loss to Brazil in a friendly.