Cristiano Ronaldo's Immense Poise Will Power Portugal to World Cup 2014 Berth

Patrick Clarke@@_Pat_ClarkeCorrespondent INovember 16, 2013

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - SEPTEMBER 06:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates scoring during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifying Group F match between Northern Ireland and Portugal at Windsor Park on September 6, 2013 in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Cristiano Ronaldo has proven to be among the most clutch footballers on the planet time and again, most recently reminding us of that fact by powering Portugal to a 1-0 win over Sweden in the first leg of the two nations' World Cup 2014 qualifying playoff.

.@Cristiano Ronaldo helps Portugal earn an important 1-0 victory against Sweden. Well-done Cristiano! #halamadrid

— Real Madrid C.F. (@realmadriden) November 15, 2013

Ronaldo's 82nd-minute strike proved to be the difference but also sent a message that neither he nor Portugal will be denied in their bid to qualify for Brazil next summer.

More so than Ronaldo's unsurpassed skill set, though, his ability to show up and deliver in the big moments is what will truly propel Portugal in the second leg and moving forward. 

While Portugal aren't out of the woods just yet, they should be considered the favorite to qualify when they match up with Sweden again in Stockholm on Tuesday. After all, the Iberians dominated possession in Friday's opening leg and out-shot their Scandinavian counterparts 19-6 behind a game-high seven shots from their fearless leader, Ronaldo, per

Portugal also earned 14 corners to just four for Sweden, finding quality scoring chances much easier to come by.

LISBON, PORTUGAL - NOVEMBER 15:  Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal has a shot saved by Andreas Isaksson of Sweden during the FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier Play-off First Leg between Portugal and Sweden at Estadio da Luz on November 15, 2013 in Lisbon, Portuga
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Still, without Ronaldo's well-played header in the waning moments, Portugal would not only still be deadlocked with Sweden heading to Stockholm, but they would have suffered a major blow to their confidence. Had Ronaldo's header not found a way past the goalkeeper, Sweden would still be level on aggregate despite having been completely out-played.

Instead, Portugal now possess a winning formula and an invaluable individual talent capable of lifting them at the last minute. However, if Ronaldo is more fortunate than he was in the first leg when he struck woodwork, Portugal may not require a late charge in order to prevail.

Although he wasn't sensational by any means, Ronaldo was his usual aggressive self on Fridayevidenced by his yellow card—and a similar approach on Tuesday is sure to result in a much more comfortable victory for Portugal.

While he didn't come close to playing his best match in the first leg, his late-game heroics once again stole the show and displayed an unsurpassed level of poise that has Portugal destined for a World Cup 2014 berth.


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