Sunderland’s Larsson rues Ronaldo role in World Cup heartbreak

Seb Larsson
Seb Larsson
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SEB LARSSON admits Sweden’s World Cup heartbreak was among the lowest points of his career.

The Sunderland midfielder will have time on his hands next summer after a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal prevailed in their World Cup play-off against the Swedes last week.

Larsson, who has won 62 caps for his country, had hoped to add a World Cup appearance to his international CV after representing Sweden in the last two European Championships.

But Ronaldo’s hat-trick ended Sweden’s prospect of appearing in Brazil when they triumphed in the second leg of the play-off tie, in Stockholm.

Larsson cannot mask his disappointment over the defeat, yet insists being thrust straight back into Sunderland’s relegation fight has proved a welcome distraction.

“It was a massive blow,” said Larsson.

“It’s up there with some of the biggest disappointments of your career – getting so close and then not going to the World Cup. It’s tough.

“But a few days later, you’re back here and you’ve got a game on your hands.

“That’s a good thing. You can’t dwell on things, you’ve got to move on.

“It was a massive disappointment, but we’re in the middle of the season back here and we’ve got things to worry about here.”

Portugal, who led 1-0 from the first leg of the tie, put themselves in pole position in Scandinavia when Ronaldo opened the scoring with a precious away goal.

But a Zlatan Ibrahimovic brace left Sweden requiring just a solitary goal with 20 minutes to go, only for Ronaldo to complete his treble with a stunning late double.

“He (Ronaldo) made the difference,” said Larsson.

“When we couldn’t sit back and cover that much space, we had to go for it.

“When it was 2-2 in the game, we still had to chase it to get another goal with 20 minutes to go.

“He’s not bad at exploiting the space and he was very clinical.

“Fair play to him and them. They’ve progressed and I’m sure they deserved it.”

The 28-year-old added: “When we got back into the game at 2-1 up and there was a fair amount of time left, they almost thought they weren’t going to get to the World Cup.

“We were on fire at the time and maybe you look back and think we might have gone for it a bit too much.

“But at that time, you can’t hold back, you’ve got to go for it.”