The draw made yesterday afternoon for the play-offs that will decide Europe's final four representatives in next summer's World Cup finals matched Portugal and Sweden - or, if you prefer, Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - meaning one of world football's biggest names will not be at its biggest tournament.
Whoever comes off worst in next month's two-legged ties may well find themselves in exalted company, though, with France handed a testing contest against Ukraine and Croatia's reward for finishing in second place in Scotland's section a dangerous tie against the fast-improving Iceland. Only Romania and Greece, who face each other in the final tie, can consider themselves fortunate, even if the Romanians disagree. "I'm not satisfied, I wanted another team," said coach Victor Piturca.
The others are still searching for a slice of luck. Erik Hamren, coach of Sweden, is hopeful of catching the 2006 semi-finalists on an off day. "Portugal, when they are at their highest level, are a world-class team, but sometimes they are a little like this [lowers his hand] and we hope they will be like this," Hamren said.
"[Ibrahimovic] has been good for a long time, he is the match winner for us, a world-class player, and they have one too. That's interesting because you can have tactics and scouting but a world-class player like Ronaldo or Ibra can change a game and do something extra," Hamren added.
The Portuguese, who were second to Russia in their group, were the highest-ranked team in the draw at no.14, so host the Swedes in Lisbon in the first leg. The sides met twice in the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup and drew both matches 0-0. "Sweden are a team who will give us two very evenly-balanced games," said Paulo Bento, the Portugal coach. "Although they have one of the best forwards in the world, they are strong as a team."
France, who were unhappy at not being seeded, face a team ranked one place above them at no.20. They can, however, comfort themselves with an unbeaten record against Ukraine. "They are a team who do not concede a lot but it's good we are playing the second leg at home," said Didier Deschamps, the French coach, who was relieved to avoid Portugal.
Given their lowly ranking of 46, Iceland might have been the team the others wanted, but they have already exceeded expectations by finishing ahead of Slovenia and Norway. "I think Croatia is okay," said coach Lars Lagerback. "We have a pretty good team so, even if we're not the favourites, look out for Iceland."