Tuesday 12 December 2017

World Cup play-offs: Draw pits superstars Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic in pick of the ties

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Sweden's talisman
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is Sweden's talisman
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo complains to the ref during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Israel at Alvalade stadium in Lisbon earlier this month
Didier Deschamps

Martyn Ziegler

ONE OF football's superstars is certain to miss out on the World Cup next year after Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal side were drawn against Zlatan Ibrahimovic's Sweden in the European play-offs for next year's finals.

Portugal v Sweden is the pick of the four ties, which will be played over two legs, while unseeded France will face a tough battle against Ukraine, who England failed to beat in two qualifying matches.

Didier Deschamps, the coach of unseeded France, had been desperate to avoid facing Portugal.

Portugal will go into the play-offs as favourites with stars such as Real Madrid's Ronaldo and Manchester United's Nani, but they struggled in what had looked a straightforward qualifying group, finishing runners-up to Russia.

Sweden, however, are more than capable of causing a surprise, especially with Paris St Germain forward Ibrahimovic in the side, and demonstrated their never-say-die attitude after recovering from 4-0 down to draw 4-4 with group winners Germany last year.

Iceland have a great chance of making it to their first ever World Cup after being drawn against Croatia, perhaps the least dangerous of the seeded sides, while unseeded Romania will face Greece.

The two-legged play-offs are to be played on November 15 and 19 to decide the four remaining European teams to go to the World Cup in Brazil next summer.

Press Association

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