No favorite in Portugal-Sweden playoff, says Bento

Fri Nov 8, 2013 9:44am EST
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LISBON (Reuters) - Portugal's World Cup qualifying playoff against Sweden is too close to call with neither side starting as favorite, coach Paulo Bento said on Friday in naming a squad he hopes will secure a place in Brazil next year.

Bento called up uncapped Sporting midfielder William Carvalho and also selected injury doubts Fabio Coentrao and Joao Pereira.

The two-legged clash pits dazzling Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo against Swedish talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Bento predicted a "finely balanced playoff".

"It's going to be very complicated and competitive, there is no favorite between the two teams," he said.

Full backs Coentrao and Pereira will be evaluated on Monday.

"Pereira may be fit to play even before the first playoff match but we will see what happens over the weekend," Bento added.

"On Monday our doctors will do an evaluation and then we make a decision."

The coach praised Angolan-born Carvalho, a tall defensive midfielder who has flourished at Sporting this season.

"His quality and recent performances justified the call, which also has to do with his height which could be an influent aspect in the match," Bento said, alluding to the superior average height of the Swedes.   Continued...

Portugal's national soccer team coach Paulo Bento listens to questions from journalists at Alvalade stadium in Lisbon October 10, 2013. REUTERS/Jose Manuel Ribeiro