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Portugal must overcome Zlatan to reach the World Cup

| 21.10.2013

Next summer’s World Cup will feature only one of Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, as two of Europe’s more dominant footballing personalities will face-off in a qualifying play-off.

A disappointing group stage saw Portugal finish behind Russia, after being unable to beat Israel at home or away, as well as drawing with Northern Ireland in Porto.

Playing the first-leg at home, A Seleccao are 4/5 to take a lead to Sweden, who beat Republic of Ireland and Austria to finish second in their group behind Germany.

Portugal will have been hoping to draw Iceland from pot two, but will at least be delighted to have avoided France, who have been matched with the Ukraine.

The match will prove a good test of France’s claims that FIFA’s rankings treated them unjustly, as Ukraine were the side to edge them into pot two by a mere point.

France qualified through the play-off stage for World Cup 2010 via a handy contribution from Thierry Henry and are 7/5 to win the first-leg away in Ukraine.

Elsewhere, minnows Iceland are bidding to reach a World Cup for the first time in their history after finishing runners-up to Switzerland in the group stages.

They have been drawn with Croatia, who sacked their manager Igor Stimac after their final group game, in which they lost 2-0 to Scotland.

New boss Niko Kovac will be pleased to have drawn Iceland who, despite boasting stars like Spurs’ Gylfi Sigurdsson and Ajax’s Kolbeinn Sigthorsson, are a lengthy 9/4 to win the first-leg in Reykjavik.

The final tie sees Greece, who finished second to Bosnia with the best record of all the teams in the play-offs, paired with Romania.

Greece did not concede a goal at home throughout their qualification group and are 17/20 to win the first-leg in Athens.

All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.

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Alex Fortune