Portugal vs Sweden Preview

World Cup Qualifier | Friday 15 November | Lisbon | 21:45



“It takes more than one player to make a team, son.” This is a saying as old as sport itself. However, one cannot help but feel that this titanic encounter could come close to defying that hackneyed adage.

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are embodiments of the evolution of football to what it has become today.

Both Portugal and Sweden would have little option but choosing these two juggernauts as their heroes, were this a medieval duel.

However, the last two nil-nil meetings between the sides reveal that progression through to football’s greatest showpiece will come down to far more complex intangibles than two great players can encompass.

To Win (90mins)
Portugal 13/20
Draw 11/4
Sweden 42/10

PORTUGAL

Portugal will surely be the most disappointed side to fail to qualify the old fashioned way.

They were in a group that lacked depth and ultimately lost that automatic qualification place to a steady, if unremarkable, Russian side.

Cristiano Ronaldo has not been training this week, a fact that will no doubt send some more fanatical Portuguese fans into minor hysteria.

Surely coach Paulo Bento is just ensuring that the virtuosic Portuguese is fully charged for this most critical encounter?

The real cornerstone of this Portuguese team rests on an established back four that will need to deal with the awkward, yet undeniably gifted, presence of Ibra.

Coentrao, Alves, Pepe and Pereira collectively form a solid defensive unit that Sweden can only wish they possessed.

Sweden are hardly the most elusive of sides, and as such the more pragmatic defensive tendencies of both Alves and Pepe should be well suited to the relatively static Swedish attack.

Meireles and Moutinho will likely play the holding roles for the Selecao, which should unfetter more enterprising players such as Veloso and Nani. Nani is really the joker in the pack.

Love him or loathe him, the embattled Manchester United winger has proven a reliable outlet for Bento and will maraud the wings with former United teammate Ronaldo.

This will likely see Helder Postiga, the side’s top scorer in qualifying, play in the traditional number nine role.

Portugal have been a team that has consistently disappointed. Some detractors say that Bento has been too reticent to blood younger players into the side, a criticism he has diffused to some extent by the selection of both William Carvalho and Bruma.

Portugal on paper has a stronger, more talented side that should win this game comfortably.

However, they seem to collapse often under the weight of immense expectation and will have to be weary of the opportunistic Swedish side.

SWEDEN

Erik Hamren’s side managed to come second in a group headlined by Germany, pipping Austria to the post
in a hard-fought qualifying campaign that will no doubt have galvanized the pragmatic Swedish side.

Zlatan has been in inspirational form for club and country, and one feels he will need to be in similar nick for Sweden to take anything out of this match.

The Swedish defence was mauled by Germany over two legs, conceding nine goals, which will no doubt encourage the Ronaldos and Nanis of this world.

They will hope to capitalise from set pieces where their uniformly statuesque side may have the literal jump on the opponents.

The gulf in class between the two teams is perhaps best expressed in the representative clubs on show.

Portugal’s side is represented by the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester United.

Aside from Zlatan, the Swedish squad is a latticework of players that represent middling club sides, such as Fulham, Norwich and Bologna.

However, they do have a sense of team cohesion that somehow manages to elevate the side above the sum of its parts.

They have a combative midfield featuring the likes of Kacaniklic and Sunderland’s Larsson; not to mention Larsson’s dead ball capabilities.

Svenson offers some dimension going forward while the focal point that is Zlatan will be crucial to their intentions.

Betting Verdict: PORTUGAL 13/20
Portugal will likely dominate large portions of the game, but will find it hard to break down a necessarily resolute Swedish defense. Through Zlatan I feel that Sweden may sneak an away goal, but Portugal will feel confident they can seal the deal in Sweden where they can implement their impressive counter-attacking style even more effectively.


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