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 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...