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Comparing the Performances of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo

Jason PettigroveContributor INovember 16, 2013

Comparing the Performances of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders.
    Zlatan Ibrahimovic carries the weight of a nation on his shoulders.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    The World Cup playoffs represent a "last-chance saloon" for the participants in their quest for qualification for Brazil 2014.

    That Zlatan Ibrahimovich's Sweden and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal found themselves in such a position was a surprise in itself.

    They ended up battling against each other in an unfortunate quirk of fate which will deprive a worldwide audience of one of the world's best players in FIFA's premier international football tournament.

    Let's take a look at who fared best in Friday night's first leg, which was won by Portugal 1-0 with Ronaldo scoring the only goal.

    "We would have been very happy with a draw," said Sweden coach Erik Hamren afterward, as per BBC's  Saj Chowdhury. "We played a good game defensively—the goal was unnecessary, we were careless with that cross."

    Portugal manager Paulo Bento called the result, "an important step to reach the World Cup but not yet decisive."


    All stats are supplied by 


Passing Accuracy

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    Was Cristiano Ronaldo's passing on point?
    Was Cristiano Ronaldo's passing on point?Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    It's unusual to have two attackers as your team captains, but the continual high level of performance from both Ronaldo and Ibrahimovich elevates them above their contemporaries.

    Neither are particularly aggressive in their management style; rather, they lead by example on the pitch.

    With neither getting too much time on the ball in the early stages, much of their play was restricted to short, sharp passing and movement.

    With 76 percent accuracy, Ronaldo was far more involved than his opponent, as Ibra managed just 63 percent accuracy.


Aerial Dominance

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    Although Ronaldo won the match with a header, was Zlatan the more aerially dominant overall?
    Although Ronaldo won the match with a header, was Zlatan the more aerially dominant overall?Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Ronaldo was decisive in this game by using his head and could have put the game beyond the away side by full-time if it were not for the crossbar.

    Yet his 38 percent score in this category evidences that he made much more of a contribution in this match when the ball was on the deck rather than in the air.

    Much of Sweden's early play revolved around a high ball to Ibra ploughing a lone furrow up front, but with only 50 percent of his aerial duels won, the Swede fared little better than Ronaldo in this area.

    The chief reason for the same was an inspired defensive performance from Bruno Alves and Pepe, who easily won the aerial battle against Sweden's main man. 



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    Goals win games and there was only one winner here.
    Goals win games and there was only one winner here.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    There can only be one winner here.

    To be fair to Ibrahimovic, there was never really a clear-cut opportunity for him to be the match winner in this game. He was either closed down too quickly or got poor passes. 

    Ronaldo was also quiet by his standards, but as the game wore on, there was a sense of inevitability that he would have some say in the outcome of the match. He proved that with eight minutes left to play. 

    Ronaldo's diving header was a masterpiece. Coming from behind the covering defender, he managed to twist his body to get enough contact on the ball to send it into the net.


Touches of the Ball

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    Who had more of an influence on proceedings?
    Who had more of an influence on proceedings?Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Looking at the stats for this part of their game, we can how both Ronaldo and Ibrahimovich had an influence on the proceedings.

    It doesn't make particularly great reading for either, in truth.

    Of all of Portugal's outfield players, only Helder Positga with 19 touches had fewer than Ronaldo's 48. Joao Moutinho, with 102, more than doubled his captain's contribution and each member of the defence easily outshone their more celebrated colleague.

    The away side barely touched the ball in comparison.

    Left-back Martin Olsson was on the ball most with a paltry 44 touches, followed by Johan Elmander's 42. Ibra was right on the coat-tails with 41, but every other member of the team were well below their captain's total.

    If the Swedes want to be on the plane to Brazil, there needs to be a sea-change in their tactics for the second leg. 


Shots on Goal

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    Ronaldo was flagged offside before dispatching this shot.
    Ronaldo was flagged offside before dispatching this shot.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    With Zlatan being dominated in the air by the home defence, you could be forgiven for thinking that the management team would change their tactics to allow more craft with the ball to feet.

    Yet over the course of the 90 minutes, Ibra's only employed his most potent weapon, his fearsome shot, on one occasion. 

    Although Ronaldo's seven shots easily outnumber that total, it's a little misleading, as two were in the same move when the Portuguese captain was flagged offside.

    If you have to buy a ticket to be able to win the raffle, then Ibra needs to make a few more purchases.



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    Zlatan was kept quiet for much of the game. Did he manage to escape the shackles?
    Zlatan was kept quiet for much of the game. Did he manage to escape the shackles?Julian Finney/Getty Images

    When it comes to running on pace with the ball and weaving through the opposition at will, there is no finer exponent in world football than Cristiano Ronaldo.

    The away team had done their homework and restricted the space around the wide man, affording him little room within which to go about his work.

    Only one dribble throughout the the entirety of the match is a pretty astonishing statistic, considering the form that Ronaldo has been in of late.

    Ibra was even less of a threat, registering precisely no dribbles whatsoever.

    The roles were reversed with completion of successful tackles. A frankly embarrassing big fat zero for Ronaldo was only bettered by Ibra's solitary successful challenge.



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    Ronaldo was booked for a nasty challenge on Andreas Isaksson.
    Ronaldo was booked for a nasty challenge on Andreas Isaksson.Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    This was far from a dirty game, although there were a few niggling fouls throughout.

    Both captains were penalised for challenges, Ronaldo earning a yellow card for leaving his foot in on Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson and Ibrahimovich for a rake down Pepe's calf. However, Ibra escaped punishment. 

    In total, four free-kicks were attributed to challenges made by Ronaldo and three from Ibra.


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