As the brutal revelation that England might not be as good as we thought came to pass on the turf of Wembley last week, across the Channel there were some other scores being settled.
The World Cup play-offs saw the curtain come down on another set of qualifying campaigns, and the completion of the European line-up that will be contesting next summer’s event in Rio.
Despite a passing interest in many of these fixtures, the headline event, without doubt, was the battle between Sweden and Portugal or more accurately, Ibrahimovic and Ronaldo.
The pair between them accounted for all six goals in the fixture, with the Portuguese ultimately coming out on top, as his side ran out 4-2 winners.
And the scoreline is perhaps a reflection of the general order of things, with Ronaldo just having a little bit more in the locker than his Swedish counterpart, be it goals, or ability.
That said however, it is a sad situation for football fans that only one of these players will be in Brazil next summer, though that opinion doesn’t seem to be shared by all.
The Mirror’s Brian Reade, for example, published an article on Saturday denouncing the flamboyant Ibrahimovic, in a piece so blinkered he appears to have taken leave of all rationality.
This is best embodied by the title ‘We won’t miss watching you during the World Cup Zlatan’, which one can only assume was mistaken for emphatic, when in reality; it’s just plain stupid.
Of course, in presenting a counter argument, it is important to be realistic. How much are football fans likely to miss one player? In the context of sixty-four matches to decide the champions of the World, in truth, not a lot.
When presented in different packaging though, i.e. would you prefer a World Cup with Ronaldo and Messi, or Ronaldo, Messi and Ibrahimovic, then the answer must undoubtedly be the latter.
The problem with Reade’s work then, is his unequivocal focus on the Swedish captain’s persona, as opposed to his exploits on the pitch, which makes for an ill-considered stance on one of the best players in the world.
It is true enough, that PSG striker’s self image appears to be a little inflated, with his reaction in the wake of his side’s defeat that “a World Cup without me is nothing to watch” bound to rub some people up the wrong way and let’s face it, kind of ridiculous.
But it’s statements such as these that make him such an intriguing entity and a breath of fresh air from the media-trained Messi and Ronaldo.
Football has produced few great characters over the years and people like Clough and Mourinho, though likely to have divided opinion more than Marmite, have left a huge mark on the game, making it that bit more interesting in the process.
And whether you love him or hate him, it cannot be denied that the imposing Ibrahimovic is capable of producing magic on the pitch, making Reade’s assertion that the player’s high opinion of himself is ‘undeserved’ something of a non-starter.
Come next summer then, the biggest competition in football will miss one of the world’s finest players, the absence of Mr. Reade’s opinions, however, would in my view be amply justified.
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