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Sweden v Portugal : Match Preview
Cristiano Ronaldo vs Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Act II commences on Tuesday night, with the former's team holding the slight edge.
Ronaldo was the matchwinner in the first leg of the World Cup qualifying playoff between Portugal and Sweden in Lisbon, with Ibrahimovic pretty much having a game to forget.
The Sweden striker and skipper, though, will want to come to the fore in the second leg at home in Solna, while Ronaldo will expect to find the back of the net once again and with it most probably send Portugal through to the World Cup in Brazil.
The first leg was far from a classic, with neither side doing enough to warrant too many goals, even if Portugal had bulk of the possession. At the end, one moment of quality from Portugal late in the game proved to be the deciding factor.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren, while acknowledging his side were far from at their best in Lisbon, remains hopeful of a turnaround in the second leg.
"Portugal pushed more in the second half [of the first leg] and we were forced to play too many balls in the air," Hamren said. "The goal we conceded was a bit sloppy. I'm always disappointed when we lose, but I would have been really happy with the draw.
"We must work hard [in the second leg]. I hope we will play better at home. After this we must win the next game at all costs. We will do everything we can to win."
Sweden, who were quite defensively disciplined against Portugal, barring the winner, will need to up their attacking tempo much more if they seriously harbor hopes of qualifying for the World Cup.
Ibrahimovic was in the periphery for much of the game, and service to their superstar will be essential if Sweden expect to score goals against Portugal.
The Portuguese, on the other hand, would have been reasonably satisfied with the opening result, even if they would have liked to have won by a bigger margin in the first leg, and will go to the second leg expecting a more attack-minded Sweden side, which might work in their favour with the speed that they possess in the wings.
Ronaldo said after the first leg that he was happy to score the winner, but would have been happier with a bigger margin of result. "It was an important goal and enough to give us the victory," he told reporters after the match on Friday. "We could have done with one or two more goals, but did not happen.
"We have to be happy with the result and, on Tuesday, we have another battle. We may take to the field with just a minimal advantage, but it's better than a draw.
"It would have been better to have scored another goal, and now we may have to score in Sweden. We will give it our best and nobody wants to miss being in Brazil."
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