Sweden vs. Portugal: Biggest Takeaways from Both Sides After World Cup Playoff

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Sweden vs. Portugal: Biggest Takeaways from Both Sides After World Cup Playoff
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. Cristiano Ronaldo—I mean, Sweden vs. Portugal—ended with the Portuguese celebrating another World Cup bid and the Swedish torn amid agonizing defeat. 

But that was far from the only development to come from the clash of these two notable national teams.

With Portugal headed to Brazil to avenge a round of 16 loss to Spain and Sweden licking their wounds and gazing upon the road to 2016 Euro qualifications, each side can take plenty from what unfolded on the pitch Tuesday afternoon.

Here are some takeaways for each team from Portugal's 3-2 win over Sweden.


Hostile Environments Are No Match for Ronaldo's Greatness

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After winning the first leg 1-0 at home, Portugal's World Cup hopes looked promising after going up a goal on Tuesday. To answer, Ibra rattled off two goals in four minutes for Sweden in the second half, giving them a 2-1 lead and tying up the aggregate score.

Then, one of the greatest took over.

The big stage and the high stakes didn't prove to be too much for Ronaldo, as he scored in the 77th minute and then once more in the 79th minute to give Portugal a 3-2 lead, which they wouldn't relinquish.

It should come as no surprise, but Ronaldo upped his ceiling again on Tuesday. His emergence in the thick of a desperately needed match bodes well for Portugal heading into Brazil. 

Even the Best Need Help

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Don't get me wrong—there will be moments (like Tuesday) when Portugal need to simply ride Ronaldo as far as they can.

Where will Portugal finish in the World Cup?

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But for this team to be successful in the long term against elite foes, it will have to be just that—a team. 

Not only did Ronaldo score all three goals on Tuesday, but he also scored the only goal in the first leg. The score should actually read, "Ronaldo 4, Sweden 3."

And when it became crunch time and a World Cup bid was on the line, only one player was firing. Ronaldo finished with 12 shots, while the rest of Portugal totaled four. 

History has shown that the Real Madrid standout has no problem shouldering the load, but teams will be able to hone in on that when elite foes come knocking in Brazil. 


Simple Defensive Lapses Cost Match

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After their World Cup qualifying campaign started with so much promise and quickly faded, Sweden will have to rest their heads knowing two easy mistakes in positioning likely cost their team a World Cup bid. 

It began in the 50th minute, when the Portuguese midfield noticed an opening after forcing a Sweden turnover. The ball was pushed on a long lead pass to a streaking Ronaldo, uncovered by the two flat-footed defenders he left in his tracks.

Sweden were able to remedy that mishap with two quick Ibrahimovic goals, but Portugal weren't done exposing the outmatched opposition. Down 2-1, Ronaldo saw Sweden's back line sagging forward and took off, burning Sweden's Mikael Antonsson and getting open for an all-important goal.

There's no doubt Ronaldo proved greatness, but Sweden could've steered shy of danger by playing carefully on the back line instead of pressing past midfield. 

List of Golden Boot Nominees Just Got Shorter

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Sweden only goes as far as Zlatan Ibrahimovic goes, and he nearly took them to an epic playoff win over one of Europe's best national teams. 

How much does Ibra's absence diminish the World Cup?

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The 32-year-old scoring machine has long been one of the world's best at the club level, but he never reached his full potential with Sweden until this recent stretch. He seems to know that his years of contending for international lore are ticking away awfully quickly.

Ibra gloated after Tuesday's loss, saying that the World Cup would be "nothing" without him, per Goal.com's Craig Turnbull

I wouldn't go that far. And to be honest, the catastrophe that would ensue across the sport if Ronaldo failed to make it to Brazil would far outweigh Ibra's impact. 

But credit needs to be given. Ibrahimovic is on the short list of the best players in the world. He's on an even shorter list of the most skilled scorers. 

With his departure, there is one less favorite to win the Golden Boot. 

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