Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brilliant hat-trick as Portugal survived a second-half scare to qualify for their fourth straight FIFA World Cup™ with a 3-2 play-off second leg win against Sweden to qualify 4-2 on aggregate. The Real Madrid superstar scored all four of his side's goals including the first-leg winner as he overcame an equally brilliant display from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in a classic encounter at Solna.
Ibrahimovic scored both goals for Sweden in vain as the match featured five goals in 29 minutes of thrilling second-half action. Ronaldo also equalled Portugal's all-time scoring record as he joined retired forward Pedro Pauleta on 47 international goals.
With Portugal leading 1-0 after the first-leg and the match scoreless at half-time, Ronaldo turned the game on its head five minutes after the restart when he latched onto a glorious through ball from Joao Moutinho and guided a left-foot shot past the despairing Andreas Isaksson.
The counter-attack that begun inside the Portuguese penalty area, took just two touches to send the former Sporting Lisbon and Manchester United striker free on a break that went the length of the pitch. Sweden were left facing the daunting prospect of scoring three times in 40 minutes and roused the crowd into a frenzy when Ibrahimovic headed home Kim Kallstrom's corner with 22 minutes remaining.
The packed crowd at the Friends Arena were given further hope four minutes later when referee Howard Webb correctly awarded Sweden a free-kick just outside the area which Ibrahimovic drilled low past Rui Patricio.
Topsy-turvy tie turns Portugal's way
With a wave of yellow shirts bombarding the Portuguese defence, Ronaldo again came to the rescue with two goals in two minutes, both of them clinical finishes after breaking behind the defence. Hugo Almeida set up Portugal's third goal which took the sting out of the crowd before another perfect pass from Moutinho enabled Ronaldo to round Isaksson before smashing the ball past the Swedish goalkeeper.
The build-up to the match was dominated by the potential battle between the two FIFA Ballon d'Or nominees on show and they did not disappoint. However, it will be Ronaldo, not Ibrahimovic, heading to Brazil next summer to grace the world stage after grabbing all four goals across both legs.