In the battle of global superstars, Cristiano Ronaldo upstaged Zlatan Ibrahimovic on Tuesday night with a stunning hat trick at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, securing a 3-2 win on the night and a 4-2 aggregate score that sent Portugal to its fourth consecutive World Cup. Sweden and Ibrahimovic now miss out on a second consecutive trip to the big tournament, having last appeared at Germany 2006, when the Scandinavian giant bowed out in the Round of 16.
After the game, Ronaldo, who scored all four of Portugal’s goals in the two-game series, said: "I know Portugal needed me in these matches and I showed that I am here.” The Real Madrid forward has now scored an astonishing 21 goals in his last nine appearances for his country.
When asked about his performance vs. that of Ibrahimovic, who scored both of Sweden’s goals on Tuesday, Ronaldo said: "I do not compete against Zlatan. He is a fantastic player and [the] biggest star in Sweden, but I do not compete against him. I play for my team." Ibrahimovic, when asked about Ronaldo, stopped short of calling the Portuguese the world’s best player, but after his third goal, cameras clearly showed the big Swede applauding his rival.
In a message on his personal app, ‘Zlatan Unplugged,' the Paris Saint-Germain striker acknowledged that at 32, this was probably his last chance to reach another World Cup. He also said this summer’s tournament in Brazil won’t be worth watching without him: “One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch so it is not worthwhile to wait for the World Cup.”