• World Cup play-offs

Portugal v Sweden pick of World Cup play-offs

ESPN staff
October 21, 2013
European Playoffs decided

Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are set to go head-to-head for a place at the World Cup after Portugal were drawn against Sweden in the pick of the play-offs.

Portugal will play at home first, on November 15, with the return leg played four days later. The last three encounters between the sides have been draws, with the last two games both ending 0-0.

Ukraine will face off with France, whom they have never beaten in seven meetings. Greece play Romania and Iceland take on Croatia.

The eight teams finished as runners-up in their World Cup qualifying groups. Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine were seeded in Pot One.

Portugal coach Paulo Bento said of the draw: "It's going to be a very even play-off against Sweden. They do have Zlatan, after all, but it's not only him they are a strong team overall. They've been many times in the final phases of major tournaments so we need to find the best way possible to reach our goal. It is a difficult tie, but we are sure that we will be in Brazil next year."

Minnows Iceland will fancy their chances of advancing to their first ever World Cup as they have been handed a relatively helpful tie against Croatia. Coach Igor Stimac was sacked recently and leaves the Croatians needing to quickly impress whoever takes over for the play-off games.

Iceland coach Lars Lagerback said: "It's very exciting for us to play two matches against Croatia. They have a good team, but we will give it our best and we have everything to gain. We might need a bit of luck but we hope to be able to create our own."

France have not impressed much in qualifying, with goal issues haunting their strikers, but they are the only team in the playoffs who have won a previous World Cup, in 1998, so their pedigree is obvious. "It will be difficult, Ukraine are a good team and it certainly won't be easy for us," coach Didier Deschamps said. "To be at home for the second game is very important. The fact we've met recently won't have a factor, all we have to do is give it our best and we have to respect them."

Finally, Greece and Romania play off in a Southern European tie. Greece coach Fernando Santos told Eurosport: "It could be a very good playoff. Both teams have the same ambitions, Romania are a strong side and have improved in recent years. It will be a tough playoff for both teams but I think Greece can go through."

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