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Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic set to clash in World Cup playoffs




Portugal have drawn unseeded Sweden in the standout fixture of next month’s World Cup playoffs.

All eyes will be drawn to Lisbon and Stockholm in November as Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic lead their respective countries, knowing one star player will miss out on Brazil.

The meeting of Paulo Bento’s Portugal and Sweden, coached by Erik Hamren, is just one of four all-European two-legged ties to be played.

Euro 2004 winners Greece tackle Romania, Ukraine meet France and surprise package Iceland were drawn with Croatia under new management.

All are tough World Cup playoff tests for the seeds. Ukraine and France sit next to one another in the rankings and Les Bleus are favourites to qualify under Didier Deschamps.

Since Andriy Shevchenko retired the Euro 2012 co-hosts have lacked a proven goalscorer and thus shared responsibility around. France meanwhile are somewhat overreliant on Franck Ribery.

Greece meanwhile will look to make things tight for Romania. They conceded just four goals in regular qualifying, but they also barely averaged a one per game at the other end.

Tottenham Hotspur defender Vlad Chiriches, winger Gabriel Torje and striker Ciprian Marica will all have key roles to play in any Romanian success.

Lars Lagerback has worked miracles getting Iceland to the World Cup playoffs and the wily Swede may fancy his chances again relative novice Niko Kovac. Croatia have changed coach at a strange time.

Few outside their hierarchy can see any shame in being second best behind Belgium’s golden generation. Igor Stimac nonetheless offered his resignation, citing a lack of support. Croatian federation president Davor Suker called his bluff.

This is the last chance for veteran attacker Eidur Gudjohnsen, remember him Chelsea fans, to grace the grand stage. He will have to roll back the years though as Croatia are odds-on favourites to advance.