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Timely Ronaldo can carry Portugal

Of all the World Cup qualifying matches left to play, none is more significant than the home-and-home between Portugal and Sweden. For those who appreciate brilliant, attacking soccer, the consensus could be that there are no winners in this matchup, as either Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo or Paris Saint-Germain star Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be featured on the world’s biggest stage next summer.

Earlier this week, Ibrahimovic went so far as to say that Sweden deserved to advance, essentially because the Swedes (and by association, Ibrahimovic himself) had faced tougher competition leading up to this World Cup playoff.

From an unbiased view, both players are deserving of a World Cup platform to showcase their skills, especially given some of the performances each has turned in during the early portion of the 2013-2014 season.

Ronaldo currently leads La Liga with 16 goals in 13 games, and leads the Champions League with eight goals. Ibrahimovic is again among the scoring leaders in Ligue 1, and already has produced multiple goal-of-the-year candidates in his domestic and European performances.

But at 28 years old, Ronaldo is acutely aware of the fact that this World Cup is essentially his last opportunity to perform at his international peak. Can he lead Portugal to a World Cup berth?