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 Posted by Dermot Corrigan
Nov 20, 2013

Ronaldo: World Cup place came first

Cristiano Ronaldo insisted his majestic hat trick against Sweden was all about getting Portugal to the World Cup, not his claim on the Ballon d'Or or his nation's all-time goal record.

Ronaldo put Portugal firmly in control of the tie when he opened the scoring early in the second half at Stockholm's Friends Arena, but Zlatan Ibrahimovic then seemed to tilt things Sweden's way with two goals in four minutes, only for the Real Madrid man to respond with his own spectacular quickfire double to ensure Paulo Bento's side went through 4-2 on aggregate.

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The matchwinner, who had also scored the only goal in Friday's first leg in Lisbon, told Portuguese TV after the game that it had been dicey at times, but the better team had won over the two legs.

"We battled and we suffered, but that is normal between two great teams," Ronaldo said. "We let Sweden believe a little after they equalised, we sat back and we suffered the second goal. That is part of football, you never know who will win until the end. We were the better team in both games. We deserved to win."

Amid reports that FIFA is to extend this year's Ballon d'Or voting so judges can take into account performances during this week's play-off games, Ronaldo said such short-term factors were of no import to him.

"Every year I have shown what I am," he said. "I have scored 40 or 50 goals a season and that is not within the reach of everyone. I am not blinded by this [prize]."

The hat trick was not an answer to FIFA president Sepp Blatter's recent mockery, the former Manchester United man maintained.

"I did my work as I have been doing all this time," Ronaldo said. "I do not have to respond to anyone. My answers I make on the pitch. I try always to give my best."  

As well as clinching qualification for next summer's finals, Ronaldo's third goal was his 47th for Portugal, putting him alongside Pauleta as the country's all-time record scorer.

"Records are there to be beaten, but it is not my priority to beat Pauleta's record," he said. "I knew that would arrive. We are level on goals, but I am focused on helping the national team. I showed that I am here to help Portugal."

Former national captain Luis Figo, who was at the Friends Arena with the Portuguese FA, acclaimed his successor as Portugal's on pitch leader.

"He was spectacular, scoring three goals in a decisive game," Figo said. "Every Portuguese must feel proud."

Figo, whose wife is Swedish, admitted to sympathy for the beaten side.

"There are mixed feelings because we wanted both teams at the World Cup," he said. "But Sweden were not able to qualify."

There were also words of consolation from Figo for his former teammate at club level Zlatan Ibrahmovic, who had been ultimately outshone by Ronaldo.

"[Ibrahimovic] is another great player," he said. "I know him well as I was with him at Inter. He played a great game too."

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