Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic face off in World Cup play-offs
England dodge a bullet as Ukraine - runners up in Group H - are drawn against France
THE importance of England's victory over Poland last week, and subsequent qualification for the World Cup, was underlined by the draw for the play-offs today, after Ukraine, the second team in England's group, were drawn against France.
The prospect of a two-legged battle against Les Bleus for a ticket to Brazil would not have tickled the fancy of many English fans, particularly those who remember the manner in which France beat Ireland to qualify for the 2010 tournament. A blatant Thierry Henry handball sent the French through to the finals but left his country's reputation for fair play in tatters.
Although France v Ukraine promises to be an interesting clash, the pick of the play-offs, according to The Guardian, pits Sweden against Portugal. It's not just the history of the two nations, but also the fact that it will be a high-stakes match for two of the world's most famous players.
"The tie means that the biggest footballing competition in the world will be without the talents of either Cristiano Ronaldo of Portual or Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, depending on which country qualifies," notes The Times.
The other play-offs are less incendiary. Iceland, the lowest ranked team in the draw at 46 in the world, must face Croatia, and will do well to make it to Brazil. Were they to spring a surprise Iceland would become the smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup
The final clash, between Greece and Romania, is unlikely to captivate many neutrals. "In Greece and Romania, you have two teams that will probably go out at the group stages in Brazil, but at least the weather should be nice," notes the Daily Telegraph.
Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine were the four seeded teams in the draw which took place on Monday.
The first leg of the play-offs will take place on 15 November with the decider four days later.
Portugal v Sweden; Ukraine v France; Greece v Romania; Iceland v Croatia ·