WASHINGTON, Oct. 21, 2013 — Sadly, it will be either Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic going to the World Cup, but not both. Fans will be denied of one of these two super stars at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil because Portugal was drawn to play Sweden in a two-leg series scheduled for Nov. 15 and 19 with Portugal hosting the first game.
Ronaldo plays for Real Madrid in Spain and has notched 43 goals in 107 games for Portugal, while Ibrahimovic stars for Paris Saint-Germain and has scored 46 goals in 94 games for Sweden. Ronaldo is considered one of the best players in the world alongside Lionel Messi and has scored a stunning 154 goals for Madrid in 144 games.
In Monday’s draw in Zurich, former World and European champion France was drawn to play Ukraine with their first game on the road. Greece was paired with Romania with the first leg taking place in Athens, and Iceland, the lowest ranked of the eight teams at No. 46 in the world, will host the first game in their series against Croatia before a tough trip to Zagreb.
The seeds for the draw were based on the most recent FIFA world rankings.
With a population of about 320,000, Iceland is aiming to become the smallest nation ever to play at the World Cup. That record is held by 2006 qualifier Trinidad and Tobago, which then had a population of about 1.1 million.
The winners of the four playoff games will complete Europe’s 13 entries in the 32-team World Cup.
Portugal advanced to the 2010 World Cup through the playoffs as did France, with a controversial win over Ireland when Thierry Henry handled the ball in the build up to William Gallas’s extra-time goal that eliminated the Irish.
Ukraine qualified for the 2006 World Cup but missed out on the 2010 event in South Africa. Sweden also qualified for the 2006 finals but missed the event four years later. Greece, which won the Euro 2004 event, qualified for the the 2010 finals after beating Ukraine in the playoffs. Romania has not reached the World Cup since 1998. Croatia did not reach the 2010 World Cup but came in third in 1998 and advanced to the following two finals.
The draw and the rankings. First games will be on Nov. 15 and second games on Nov. 19.
Portugal (14) vs. Sweden (25)
Greece (15) vs. Romania (29)
Iceland (46) vs. Croatia (18)
Ukraine (20) vs. France (21)
Soccer Notes: Australia’s Tim Cahill scored the fastest goal in Major League Soccer history on Sunday in the Red Bulls 3-0 win at the Houston Dynamo. Cahill volleyed a shot past Houston goalie Tally Hall after just 8 seconds of play.
If D.C. United lose to the Houston Dynamo next Sunday the club will set a record for fewest wins in MLS history. The team is already the fifth club in history not to have won a road win.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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