Portugal host Sweden in the first leg of their World Cup playoff on Friday in a game that will see arguably Europe’s two deadliest front men face off.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are both in stunning form ahead of the battle in Lisbon but only one will feature in Brazil next year.
Portugal defender Pepe believes both nations stand an equal chance of progressing top the finals.
He said: ‘‘I don’t think there are favourites, they (Sweden) try to make us out as the favourites but things aren’t like that. I think 50/50 is more accurate. We have two matches and we must play well in both matches to qualify.’‘
Goals will certainly be expected on the night – Ronaldo tops the La Liga scoring charts while Ibrahimovic has also been prolific for Paris St Germain since arriving last year.
But Sweden will have to shore up their defence on the night as only Iceland conceded more goals out of all runners up in the European qualifying campaign.
The return leg takes place in Stockholm on November 19th.
In another high-profile playoff Ukraine lock horns with 1998 World Cup winners France with the first leg on Friday at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
Ukraine, who finished second to England in their qualification group, will look to put their agonizing playoff history behind them after also losing out in the 1998, 2002 and 2010 playoffs.
France should be at full strength with European player of the year Franck Ribery expected to play a major role for Didier Deschamps men as they look to reach their fifth straight finals.
The only doubt is defender Raphaël Varane who is suffering from a minor knee problem.
Iceland host Croatia in Reykjavik and will hope to improve their dire defensive record from qualifying where they equaled bottom side Cyprus in leaking 15 goals.
But they are solid in front of goal hitting 17 in the group stage – thanks mainly to Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.
The only absentee for Iceland is defender Birkir Mar Saeversson who is suspended.
Croatia coach Niko Kovac – who was only appointed last month after the sacking of Igor Stimac – will be missing left back Ivan Strinic through injury with Danijel Pranjic is set to deputize.
Mario Mandzukic will likely to start as a lone striker as Ivica Olic continues to recover from a calf strain.
Elsewhere 2004 European champions Greece battle it out with Romania who are hunting only their third finals appearance.
Greece are in the playoffs after finishing second behind Group G winners Bosnia while Romania were runners up behind 2010 finalists the Netherlands.
Copyright © 2014 euronewsMore about:
- 1euronews live TV - News | euronews : the latest international news as video on demand
- 2Le Pen: I admire ‘cool head’ Putin’s resistance to West’s new Cold War | euronews, interview
- 3Watch: Passengers ‘push-start’ frozen plane in Siberia | euronews, world news
- 4Which countries in Europe cause the most air pollution damage? | euronews, world news
- 5McCain blasts Europe’s approach to Ukraine conflict ‘a joke’ | euronews, the global conversation
- 6Moldova pro-EU parties take narrow lead in elections | euronews, world news
- 7NATO joins search for ‘Russian submarine’ off Scottish coast | euronews, world news
- 8Ukraine reports accident at Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant | euronews, world news
- 9Grenoble: Europe’s first ad-free city | euronews, world news
- 10Crude awakening: Romania’s Black Sea oil and gas finds fuel Europe’s energy hopes | euronews, reporter
- 11European Union News | euronews: latest breaking news and headlines about European Union
- 12The American Century comes to an end as China becomes the world’s largest economy | euronews, economy
- 13Israeli warplanes hit targets in Syria | euronews, world news
- 14Germans demand honour for Turkish woman beaten to death | euronews, world news
- 15Chechen ‘death’ unit fighting with rebels in eastern Ukraine | euronews, world news
- 16International breaking news | euronews online world breaking news in video
- 17Belgium’s former queen Fabiola dies at 86 | euronews, world news
- 18Portugal: Ex-PM José Socrates held in corruption probe | euronews, world news
- 19Catalonia announces new ‘independence plan’ | euronews, world news
- 20Pakistan Taliban ‘kill over 100’ in Peshawar school attack | euronews, world news
Wires > Sport
- 06:06 CET No retirement in sight for evergreen Socceroo Cahill
- 04:32 CET Crash rules Gerrans out of Tour Down Under title defence
- 03:30 CET South Korea light on strikers for Asian Cup
- 03:25 CET European roundup – City and Barca turn heat up on leaders
- 23:27 CET Rangers manager McCoist leaves club
- 19:08 CET Ajax leave it late to polish off struggling Excelsior
- 18:51 CET Rossouw gets South Africa test call-up
- 17:49 CET Villarreal beat Deportivo 3-0 with Vietto double