One hundred and eighty minutes of football to determine who goes to the Word Cup, Sweden or Portugal. On Friday at the Estadio da Luz in Lisbon, Portugal the first 90 minutes were played. I made the trip to cover the event for Pic-Agency. This is the second time I’ve travelled abroad to photograph a match for Pic-Agency, the first was the Ireland-Sweden match back in September. This time Pic-Agency opted to send two photographers so I travelled with my colleague Sami and so we split the pitch in half, placing ourselves on opposing goal lines.
One of the best parts with traveling abroad is seeing how they work in other countries. In Lisbon there was a very relaxed attitude. Once inside the stadium it felt like a place of people. The music was extremely loud. It all seemed loosely regulate, festive, and easy going. My colleague sat next to a photographer who chain smoked throughout the match, lighting new cigarettes with the one he just finished. When I saw one of the local photographers next to me roll up a cigarette I asked him if he was going to smoke it there. He smiled and said “this Portugal.”
From my position I had Sweden attacking towards me in the first half and Portugal in second. Sweden did better in the first half than in the second. The closest they came to scoring was from a Kim Källström free kick. But there were a few other good opportunities as well. Durring the first half I remember thinking to myself that Portugal’s biggest flaw is that there isn’t a lot of harmony in the team. If you fluster them and put them into difficulty they start to bicker amongst themselves. The picture of Pepe above was taken as he lashed out at one of his teammates for an error. Had Sweden been able to continue pressuring them they might have been able to exploit this but in the second half it seemed like it was all Portugal.
They were able to bring themselves in front of Sweden’s goal time and time again. That it ended 1-0 is really lucky for Sweden because it could have easily be 3-0. My positioning worked out really well for Ronaldo’s eventual goal. He ran right passed me celebrating and I was able to fire away as he celebrated.
None of the major Swedish newspapers ran the photos, which is disappointing. I had a feeling they might not want to use pictures of Portugal celebrating. Instead most opted to go with goal camera pictures where the focus was either on the goal keeper or the ball hitting the back of the net. The next morning I saw I had an image in Aftonbladet, but it was just a generic player picture. Kind of annoying when you are well placed and capture the moment that defines the match, but that’s just how the balls bounces I suppose.
On Tuesday they play the return match and Sweden needs to win 2-0 if they hope to go to the World Cup. They find themselves in the horrible position of needing a goal at all costs. Perhaps they have luck on their side and score early on. Then it’s all square and whoever scores the next one goes on to Brazil. However if the goal doesn’t come and time starts to pass they risk becoming desperate and forced to push high with lots of players, creating tons of space for Ronaldo and the rest of the Portuguese to expose. One of the most interesting things on Tuesday will be seeing how Ibrahimovic performs. His biggest criticism from his time in Italy was that he tends to not show up for the big matches. It’s a criticism that stands, especially in the Champions League. A lot of people billed these two games as a showdown between two superstars, but in the first round only one showed up. So which Ibra will turn up on Tuesday? The one who dominates league matches demolishing opponents, or the one who goes cold on the big stage? Will it be the Ibrahimovic who christened Friends Arena with four goals, one more beautiful than the other? I can’t wait to find out.
These images and more available exclusively via Pic-Agency.