Heading into the final day of World Cup Qualifiers, Sweden vs Portugal was supposed to be the game of the day, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Cristiano Ronaldo were supposed to be the stars of the day. That game and those two stars lived up to that billing and then some. Portugal won a thrilling 3-2 match to advance to the 2014 World Cup 4-2 on aggregate.
Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic recorded all six goals over the two legs, and they were spectacular in today’s game. After Ronaldo got Portugal out to an early second half lead, Ibra scored twice to give Sweden a 2-1 lead, leaving them needing just one goal to advance to the World Cup.
The pressure was on for Portugal, and Ronaldo rose to the occasion like no one else could. He got behind the Swedish defense twice for spectacular goals, and the back four of Sweden never had a chance to hold him in check. Ronaldo terrorized the defense throughout the 90 minutes, and his speed and skill were simply unmatched by anyone else on the pitch.
Today’s game displayed Ronaldo at the peak of his powers, and it proved that he, not Lionel Messi, is the world’s best player. Messi is one of the all time greats, and his goal scoring prowess is historic. But Ronaldo is the better athlete and the more complete player, and his many gifts were on full display against Sweden.
No player in the world today, and perhaps ever, possesses Ronaldo’s combination of power and accuracy when finishing. He has an unparalleled ability to pick his spots on goal and simply blast the ball into the back of the net. Ronaldo may not be quite the dribbling wizard that Messi is, but he has perfect control while at full speed, deftly sidestepping defenders and clearing himself for a shot, as he did on each of his goals against Sweden. No one in the world can play as fast as Ronaldo can while still maintaining that level of control and skill.
Ronaldo also possess exceptional versatility in his finishing, and he scored two with his left foot and one with his right today. His ability in the air matches his skill on the ground, making him the most complete goal scoring threat in the world. Combined with his brilliant free kicks and deft passing, Ronaldo has a skill set that no one can match.
Perhaps the best evidence of Ronaldo’s true greatness is his ability to lift the team around him. Portugal is a good team, but Ronaldo makes them world class. He has an incredible ability to single handedly change the outcome of a game, which is exactly what he did today, and his individual brilliance is what carried Portugal through to the World Cup. Situations like today are the times that world class players must deliver, and Ronaldo’s performance today proved why he is the greatest player in the world.