When two of the sport’s most dominant scorers meet with their respective countries’ World Cup hopes resting firmly on their shoulders, fans should expect a show, but what Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic did this afternoon was nothing short of amazing.
With Portugal carrying a 1-0 lead in aggregate goals heading into the second leg, the Swedes knew if they needed to finish regulation winning by a 1-0 margin to send the game to extra time — and a two-goal margin to advance to Brazil. After a scoreless first half, Ronaldo opened the scoring with a strike in the 49th minute — giving Portugal a 1-0 lead, and more importantly, a 2-0 aggregate advantage.
Then, in the 68th minute, Zlatan Ibrahimovic finally showed up, fighting off defenders to net a beautiful header off a corner kick to tie the match at 1-1 and close the gap in aggregate to 2-1. But what happened over the course of the next 10 minutes was nothing short of magic.
Just four minutes after connecting with his header, Ibrahimovic put away a free kick from just outside the penalty area, which gave Sweden a 2-1 lead in the game but most importantly, tied the aggregate score at two apiece. The Stockholm crowd knew the momentum was on their side and as they were beginning to taste the upset, needing one more goal to advance to Brazil.
That is, until five minutes later, when Ronaldo decided there was no way he was going to miss out on a trip to Brazil and thus crushed the hearts of a nation with this devastating strike.
And then he told all of Sweden “I am here,” like bosses do.
And if that wasn’t enough, two minutes later he quashed any remaining hope by completing the hat trick and giving Portugal a 3-2 lead in the game and a crushing 4-2 aggregate advantage with 10 minutes remaining.
In 10 minutes, the hopes and dreams of Portugal and Sweden went on a stomach-churning carnival ride that ended with only Portugal still standing.
And they have one man to thank.
See you this summer, Cristiano. You handsome bastard.