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superhumans

Remembering when Cristiano Ronaldo scored a crucial hat-trick to single-handedly ensure World Cup qualification for Portugal

Lionel Messi's superhuman effort against Ecuador was a joy to behold but haven't we seen it somewhere before?

Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are cut from the same intergalactic cloth.

Last night the Argentine No10 scored a hat-trick against Ecuador, on a tricky pitch, at altitude, after going one-nil down inside the first minute, to propel his county to World Cup qualification.

It was a superhuman effort typical of a player who has startled us with his talent time and time again over the years.

Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to book Argentina's spot at next year's World Cup

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And four years ago, Ronaldo did something very similar.

In 2013 Portugal and Sweden met each other in a play-off to determine which country would join Europe’s elite in qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil.

The first leg was a turgid affair as Sweden valiantly resisted Portugal’s attack until the 82nd minute when Ronaldo stooped low to head home and break the deadlock.

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With just a slender lead, there was everything to play for in the second leg in Stockholm.

After a goalless first half in which the hosts barely threatened, the game burst into life in what remains one of the most entertaining halves of international football in recent memory.

Five minutes after the restart, Joao Moutinho threaded a magnificent throughball in between the Swedish defence and once Ronaldo took it in his stride there was only ever going to be one result.

One whip of his left foot later and Portugal were one-nil up on the night.

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But the Real Madrid forward was not the only superstar on the pitch.

Enter Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The enigmatic Swede used his strength to overpower Bruno Alves at a corner and head in an equaliser after 68 minutes.

Game on.


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With a deafening Friends Arena doubling the hosts’ momentum, the yellow shirts piled forward and just two minutes after the equaliser, Sweden were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box.

The Portuguese wall could barely hear Rui Patricio’s yells as the keeper tried to position his men.

And in such noise, players like Zlatan thrive.

Deciding that there wasn’t enough distance to whip the ball up and over wall, he blasted it low and hard through Patricio’s arms and into the bottom corner sparking rapturous scenes inside the stadium.

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Sweden needed just one more goal to take the lead in the tie and with Zlatan sniffing blood and fiending for a hat-trick, the hosts were momentarily made favourites.

But nobody upstages Ronaldo.

Five minutes after the third goal, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner accelerated down the left flank with tremendous speed before latching on to a probing ball forward.

A cushion with his thigh, a swing of his weaker foot (if such a thing exists) and just like that Portugal’s place at the World Cup was all but assured.

During his celebrations he pointed at himself and then at the turf as if to say it belonged to him — and that night it certainly did.

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That wasn’t enough for him though.

Nothing is ever enough for the greats.

Another glorious pass from Moutinho released Ronaldo once again — the cultured midfielder’s impact on the game should not be underestimated, both his assists were world-class.

On the second occasion, Ronaldo controlled it with the outside of his right foot and then rounded the keeper before lashing in his finish off the bar to complete a masterful hat-trick.

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Just like diamonds, legends are made under intense pressure.

The World Cup needs players like Ronaldo and Messi more than they need it.

Let’s see what magic they can produce in Russia.


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