Ronaldo’s hat-trick sinks Sweden to secure Portugal’s World Cup place

Cristiano Ronaldo struck a devastating hat-trick to fire Portugal into the World Cup finals at the expense of Sweden and win his highly-anticipated duel with fellow superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

Cristiano Ronaldo.
Cristiano Ronaldo.

Ronaldo earned Portugal a narrow lead with a late strike in the play-off first leg and the Real Madrid ace was his side’s hero again with goals in the 50th, 77th and 79th minutes to seal a 4-2 aggregate win.

The Portugal captain’s last two goals came after Sweden had threatened to turn the tie on its head when, after trailing 2-0 overall, they battled back to 2-2 thanks to two goals in four minutes from talismanic Ibrahimovic.

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With 15 minutes to go it was anyone’s game, but two more clinical finishes from Ronaldo settled the contest in Portugal’s favour and means the Euro 2012 semi-finalists will grace Brazil next summer while Sweden captain Ibrahimovic and his team-mates stay at home.

Portugal took the lead with a blistering counter-attack. Joao Moutinho’s brilliant through-ball found the run of Ronaldo and he drilled home a left-footed shot.

That left Sweden needing three goals to keep their World Cup dream alive, but Ibrahimovic gave them a lifeline when he headed home a 67th-minute corner, before firing in a free-kick.

Sweden suddenly looked favourites, but Ronaldo showed why he is rated as the leading player on the planet alongside Lionel Messi as he wrestled back the initiative with two superb finishes which proved decisive.

The first saw him latch on to Hugo Almeida’s through-ball and fire another left-footed shot beyond Andreas Isaksson, and then two minutes later he completed his hat-trick – his fifth for club and country in the last three months – when he rounded the Sweden goalkeeper and stroked into the gaping net.

Greece finished off the job they started in Athens as a 1-1 draw with Romania sent them safely through. Holding a 3-1 advantage from the opening leg, Fernando Santos’s men arrived in Bucharest looking to wrap up the tie and they all but achieved that with a first-half strike from Konstantinos Mitroglou. A bizarre own goal from Vasileios Torosidis early in the second half pulled Romania level on the night.