Cristiano Ronaldo's hat trick propels Portugal into World Cup
Portuguese side gets in at expense of Sweden
The irrepressible CristianoRonaldo scored a dazzling hat trick to send Portugal into the 2014 World Cup finals at the expense of ZlatanIbrahimovic's Sweden on Tuesday.
Ronaldo came out on top in his personal duel with fellow superstar Ibrahimovic, whose brace in Stockholm was upstaged by the Real Madrid forward's three brilliant goals in 29 second-half minutes.
Portugal won 3-2 for a 4-2 aggregate victory.
The final two berths for the 32-team World Cup will be secured on Wednesday, with Uruguay protecting a 5-0 lead over Jordan and Mexico 5-1 up on New Zealand heading into the second legs of their intercontinental playoffs. The draw for the group stage of the 2014 World Cup takes place in Bahia, Brazil, on Dec. 6.
Ronaldo proved once again he is the man for the big occasion, continuing a prolific season in which he could yet wrestle the World Player of the Year award from great rival Lionel Messi.
He had already trumped Ibrahimovic by scoring the winner in the first leg on Friday, but the rivalry between arguably the two biggest showmen in the sport climbed to new levels at the Friends Arena.
Ronaldo opened the scoring in the 50th minute but Ibrahimovic netted twice in four minutes to level the score on aggregate and give Sweden hope. That was quickly extinguished by two pieces of brilliance from Ronaldo, who burst through to power home a left-footed in the 77th before latching onto another through-ball and smashing into the roof of the net two minutes later.
"Of course, we cannot underestimate how important is Cristiano for us," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said.
His second hat trick in international football, to go with his 24 at club level for Manchester United and Real Madrid, sparked jubilant scenes of celebration as Portugal's coaching staff and substitutes spilled onto the pitch.
That was possibly the last chance for the 32-year-old Ibrahimovic to play at a World Cup, but football fans will be thrilled that both Ronaldo and France's Franck Ribery — two of the favourites for this year's Ballon d'Or — will be in Brazil.