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Sweden in 'nightmare' World Cup draw

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Sweden in 'nightmare' World Cup draw
14:57 CEST+02:00
Sweden's hopes of reaching their first World Cup since 2006 have been dealt a blow after they were handed a showdown with Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in November's playoffs.

The draw was immediately branded a "nightmare" by the Aftonbladet and Expressen newspapers. Sweden will play the first leg away from home but will potentially have an advantage as the second leg which will be played in Stockholm.

Sweden go into the first leg on November 15th in the better form having won five of their last six games. By contrast, Portugal's most recent win came against lowly Luxembourg and they were heavily criticized after only claiming a draw against Israel prior to that.

"We have a chance and we will take it," said Swedish coach Erik Hamrén following the draw in Zurich.

"It's about two matches, two performances in which you will give 100 percent," he added.

Sweden's superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Sweden are the underdogs.

"Portugal are favourites, but they are going to be two fantastic matches," said the Paris Saint Germain star.

"We're playing against a good team with many good players. Play-off matches are like two finals, it's completely different from group matches.

"I think we have to reduce our errors and the team who makes the most will miss the World Cup."

It's a match that pits Ibrahimovic against Portuguese great Cristiano Ronaldo or as one Twitter user quoted by the BBC put it "the actual best player in the world vs the self proclaimed best player in the world."

"So one of Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo will not be dazzling us with their magic at the 2014 World Cup. Why, cruel, cruel world?" said the BBC's Saj Chowdhury in the wake of the draw.

The playoff will inevitably be billed as a showdown between Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo for the games which will be played on November 15th and 19th.

"They are two superstars. There is no doubt it. They are two fantastic footballers," said Hamrén.

The last three matches between the two sides have ended in draws. Sweden and Portugal were drawn in the same group for World Cup 2010 with both matches ending scoreless.

"It's the worst (draw) possible. It's crap. It was the toughest team out of the four we could have got so you don't need to be a genius to work it out," said Swedish star Anders Svensson to Expressen who rated his country's chances of qualifying at "40 percent."

Meanwhile Portugal coach Paulo Bento said his players had their work cut out for them.

"We have been drawn against a team against whom we will be playing two complicated matches, two relatively balanced matches," he told reporters.

"Besides having one of the best strikers in the world (Ibrahimovic), the quality of their team (Sweden), is their collective spirit.

"They finished second in a group that had one of the best European teams and potential winners Germany.

"However regardless of the opponent, we will be playing these two matches with the aim of playing at the World Cup," continued Bento.

Sweden are likely to have a score to settle with the Portuguese who pipped them to second place in the group by a single point in World Cup qualifiers four years ago.

Despite being unbeaten against Portugal in their last three meetings, Sweden have not beaten their Iberian opponents since 1984 - some eight games ago.

DON'T MISS: Zlatan's career in pictures

AFP/The Local/pr

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