Stunning Ronaldo hat-trick fires Portugal to World Cup
By Philip O'Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A sublime second-half hat-trick by Cristiano Ronaldo took Portugal to the World Cup finals with a 4-2 aggregate victory in their World Cup playoff against Sweden on Tuesday.
Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to put his side 2-1 ahead in the second leg but the peerless Ronaldo hit back with two stunning goals to secure a 3-2 win and send his country to next year's tournament in Brazil.
"I know Portugal needed me in these matches and I showed I am here," the Real Madrid forward told Portuguese TV.
"I just did my work as I have been doing lately."
Portugal coach Paolo Bento paid tribute to the contribution of his team's captain and talisman.
"When a player grabs a hat-trick in a match of this scale, naturally he had a huge impact," Bento told a news conference.
In a tie billed as a monumental battle between the Portuguese captain and Ibrahimovic, Ronaldo took all the plaudits.
With Portugal leading 1-0 from the first leg in Lisbon, the Swedes dominated first-half possession but created little before Ronaldo tore them apart in the second half, getting in behind the defense three times to score. Continued...