Ronaldo hat-trick fires Portugal to World Cup

Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:27pm EST
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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 after he stunned battling Sweden in their playoff on Tuesday.

Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice to put the home side 2-1 ahead in the second leg but the peerless Ronaldo hit back with two magnificent goals to secure a 3-2 win on the night 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," added Ronaldo, whose treble means he has equaled his country's all-time scoring record of 47 goals held by Pauleta.

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 Portugal 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...

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Sweden, with teammate Nani, during the second leg of their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Portugal at Friends Arena in Stockholm November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Pontus Lundahl/TT News Agency