Ronaldo’s hat-trick lifts Portugal into World Cup

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Ronaldo’s hat-trick lifts Portugal into World Cup

Portugal qualified for next year’s World Cup on Tuesday after a superb hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo secured a 3-2 win over Sweden and a 4-2 victory on aggregate in their playoff.

After a hesitant first half in which the Real Madrid forward missed several scoring chances, the much-awaited contest between two of the biggest names in world football, Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, burst into life in the second half.

Five minutes after the break, Ronaldo opened the scoring, set up by a superb long pass by Joao Moutinho. Ibrahimovic equalized for Sweden with a header from a corner in the 68th minute. Three minutes later, Sweden won a free kick just outside the penalty area and Ibrahimovic fired home a fierce low shot to give the home team a 2-1 lead and raise the nation’s hopes of qualification.

However, the home fans among the nearly 50,000 spectators didn’t get to cheer for long. As Sweden pushed forward in search of a third goal and a 3-2 lead on aggregate, its defense became vulnerable to the counterattack. Latching on to a pass by Hugo Almeida, Ronaldo raced through to equalize with a clinical finish in the 77th minute. He brought up his hat-trick just two minutes later - this time collecting a defense-splitting pass from Joao Moutinho.

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