STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Sweden’s backline must hold their nerve when they come up against prolific Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo in their World Cup qualifying playoff, said defender Andreas Granqvist.
“It’s about not giving him too much space, too much time on the ball,” Granqvist told Reuters on Thursday as his team prepared for training before departing for the first leg in Lisbon.
“If we can defend as a team and stay tight I think we can succeed. A key to our defense will be to have the nerve to get tight on him, maybe double up so that he doesn’t get much time.”
Portugal captain Ronaldo tops La Liga’s best scorers’ list this season with 16 goals, and has also been on fire in the Champions League with eight goals in four games.
“Clearly he’s one of the best players in the world and he’s coming into this with great form. He’s scored an awful lot of goals for Real Madrid, both in the Champions League and the league,” Granqvist said.
“We’ll have to focus on him as a team, but it’s not just him. They have some very skillful players apart from Ronaldo.”
Granqvist said that playing the first leg in Lisbon on Friday could be an advantage, but only if the Swedes could achieve a good result to take back to Stockholm for the return leg on November 19.
“If we get a good result it’s clearly an advantage to play the second leg at home, but if we get a bad result away it’s not that great. I prefer to play away in the first match, but we’ll see what result we get.”
(Editing by Justin Palmer)