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Head to head: Ronaldo vs. Ibrahimovic.
Cristiano Ronaldo playing for Portugal
Meetings between the superstars of the footballing world are quite a common sight in the Champions League these days, as the 'big boys' in the competition snatch all the important player from the 'lesser' teams. But, to be considered as top player, as one of the best, you need to perform not only for your club team, but for your national side as well.
You see, a club team, especially a big one, can surround it's talisman with the best players in the world, making his/hers life much easier, but in the national side you have to do with what your country has to offer in terms of footballers. Sometimes you get a good generation of teammates, sometimes you don't.
This is why, a lot of people consider national appearances and performances more important in showing a player's talent than club ones and this is why the most talked about meeting in the European qualifying play-off for the 2014 World Cup was Portugal versus Sweden.
With both national sides having it's own talisman in their respective squad in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Sweden, and Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal the hype quickly turned towards them.Regarded as one of the best attacking players in the modern game of football, the two stars simply stole the show. This was no longer a meeting between two great footballing nations in their road for Brasil 2014, this had become the battle between Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo in their quest to be the world's best football player, and the man who will shine in this double will be just that.
So who is the world's best footballer? Well, judging after the first leg, Joao Pereira. Seriously now, in a match where both Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic failed to play at the level that was expected from them, Joao Pereira was outstanding. The Valencia player has tormented the Swedish defense with his pace and crosses from the right to the point where people started to think that Nani was actually the defender and Pereira the attacking midfielder. Of course, a good match in the Portugal shirt doesn't make him a replacement for Ronaldo, but people tend to forget that football is a team sport, and an individual, no matter how good he is, cannot compensate for a poor performance from his teammates. It was a close match, but Portugal was marginally better and while Ronaldo has scored, it was after a great ball in from Veloso. The Portuguese star went on to hit the post in the 85th minute, and while Ibrahimovic remained silent, it doesn't mean that one player or another has decided the first leg, it means that Portugal was a bit better that Sweden and, it was rewarded with a goal.
In the second leg though, you could be forgiven for saying Ronaldo has stolen the show, as he scored the first goal of the match in the 50th minute, followed by another two goals in the course of just two minutes to silence Sweden for good.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic playing for Sweden
So there! The matter is settled! Ronaldo scored four goals, while Ibrahimovic managed to score only two over the two qualifying legs. This means Ronaldo is the better player.
That was easy, wasn't it? Well no it wasn't. Fortunately football isn't that simple and straightforward. Although Ronaldo showed again why is regarded as one of the best players in the world, Ibrahimovic didn't do that bad as well. He has scored the equalizer after heading in a well taken corner-kick from Källström, and sent Sweden ahead with a low free-kick in the 72nd minute. Both players have shown why many people claim them to be among the best in the world of football. They are important figures for club and country alike, and always leave their mark on the matches they play.
What people are missing here are the players around these stars. Cristiano Ronaldo was praised after the game to the point where, if you hadn't actually seen the match, you wold think that the Real Madrid star has qualified Portugal all by himself. And that's just not fair to the Portuguese team. They all played a good game, and let's not forget that Ronaldo has scored his hat-trick after some clever passes from João Moutinho and Hugo Almeida. All of his goals in this double against Sweden came after great assists from his teammates, and while that doesn't take anything from Cristiano's performance it should say something about the quality of the players surrounding him.
At the end of this clash between Sweden and Portugal, it should be clear that the team who was the best over the two legs has qualified. Saying that one player or another has dragged his teammates to the World Cup is unfair, to say the least.
Which one is better?
In fact we should all be grateful to both teams, because they produced some quality football and while the fist leg didn't raise to the expectations, the second leg certainly did. This match had it all, suspense, drama, good football and, why not, two of the best footballers in the world trying to outdo each other.
So where does this leaves our stars?
To be honest, I've never been a big fan of this type of comparisons between football players, especially when, like in our case, they play in different positions on the pitch. Cristiano Ronaldo is and always has been a wing player (yes, I know, he scores a lot of goals and has played as CF at times, but nevertheless), while Ibra is a classic centre-forward. They can end up playing in the same team, for crying out loud.
The most valid comparisons are between players performing on the same position, or at least, with the same qualities and style. So, for me, the battle between Cristiano and Zlatan can only be resolved by a subjective decision, as they are different types of players with different styles of play.
So, in the end, is up to you to tell me which one is the best in the world or, at least, which one is better. Feel free to share your opinion in the comments area below.