European qualifying

Portugal land Sweden in playoff draw

October 21, 2013
By ESPN staff

Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal were drawn against Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden in the playoff draw for the UEFA region of 2014 World Cup qualifying, while Ukraine take on France.

World Cup qualifiers
AssociatedOne of either Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo will not be going to Brazil.

• SPI projections

The other ties see Iceland hosting Croatia and Greece at home to Romania in the first leg of the two-legged tie.

The star attraction is, of course, the battle between two of the best players in world football. Ibrahimovic has been involved in over 50 percent of Sweden's goals, while Ronaldo's impact for club and country is well documented. One of them will not be travelling to Brazil for the World Cup.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento told Eurosport: "It's going to be a very even playoff against Sweden. They do have Zlatan, after all, but it's not only him they are a strong team overall. They've been many times in the final phases of major tournaments so we need to find the best way possible to reach our goal. It is a difficult tie, but we are sure that we will be in Brazil next year."

Minnows Iceland will fancy their chances of advancing to their first ever World Cup as they have been handed a relatively helpful tie against Croatia. Coach Igor Stimac was sacked recently and leaves the Croatians needing to quickly impress whoever takes over for the playoff games.

Iceland coach Lars Lagerback said: "It's very exciting for us to play two matches against Croatia. They have a good team, but we will give it our best and we have everything to gain. We might need a bit of luck but we hope to be able to create our own."

France have not impressed much in qualifying, with goal issues haunting their strikers, but they are the only team in the playoffs who have won a previous World Cup, in 1998, so their pedigree is obvious. "It will be difficult, Ukraine are a good team and it certainly won't be easy for us," said coach Didier Deschamps to Eurosport. "To be at home for the second game is very important. The fact we've met recently won't have a factor, all we have to do is give it our best and we have to respect them."

Finally, Greece and Romania play off in a Southern European tie. Greece coach Fernando Santos told Eurosport: "It could be a very good playoff. Both teams have the same ambitions, Romania are a strong side and have improved in recent years... it will be a tough playoff for both teams but I think Greece can go through."

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