Portugal leads 1-0
Portugal: Paulo Bento (21-10-7)
Sweden: Erik Hamrén (30-6-12)
Seventeenth Meeting All-Time
Series History: Sweden 6 wins, Portugal 4 wins, 6 draws
When the draw for these playoff matches was announced, soccer fans around the world immediately salivated for this matchup between two of the world’s best players trying to lead their home country to the promised land; Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Real Madrid vs. Zlatan Ibrahimović of Paris Saint-Germain and Sweden. After all of the anticipation, the first leg lived up to hype.
Sweden came into the match wanting to eliminate all of the scoring and attempted to keep the scoreline close, going back to Sweden for the second leg; for 82 minutes, the plan was working to perfection. Enter Ronaldo, whose header broke the deadlock and nearly opened up the floodgates to more damage when his header struck the woodwork and stayed out.
Portugal dominated the possession with a whopping 68 percent of the ball, but only managed to put three shots on target throughout the match. They would have wanted more in the line of goals, but it will help their cause, having held Sweden without an away goal.
The series shifts back to the Friends Arena in Solna, where Sweden knows that they will need at least one goal to make the World Cup Finals, but they must also beware of their defensive assignments. A Portugal away goal would kill all of the Sweden momentum, forcing them to have to score three goals to advance.
Sweden Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
Mikael Lustig – Per Nilsson — Mikael Antonsson — Martin Olsson
Rasmus Elm — Kim Källström
Sebastian Larsson — Johan Elmander — Alexander Kačaniklić
Portugal Projected Lineup: 4-2-3-1
João Pereira – Pepe — Bruno Alves — Fábio Coentrão
Raul Meireles – Miguel Veloso
Nani — João Moutinho — Cristiano Ronaldo
Sweden hosts Portugal in the second leg of their UEFA Qualifying Playoff at the Friends Arena in Solna on Tuesday, Nov. 19 at 2:45 p.m. ET, and can be seen on ESPN2.
This is a two-game aggregate series; away goals are used for the tiebreaker. If the series score and away goals are tied after these 90 minutes, then the match will proceed into two 15-minute extra time periods. If it is still tied, then the match will move forward to penalty kicks.
Second Leg Prediction: Sweden 2, Portugal 1 (Series Tied 2-2, Portugal wins on Away Goals Rule and advances to FIFA World Cup)
I have a feeling that this will be the most exciting game on the European slate. My thoughts are that Sweden goes up early and Ronaldo comes to the rescue with a stoppage-time winner.