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Sweden against Portugal highlights UEFA World Cup playoff draw

Sweden v Portugal, Ibrahimovic v Ronaldo - that matchup highlighted the draw for Europe's four World Cup qualifying playoff ties. France were drawn with Ukraine, while Croatia will play Iceland and Greece face Romania.

Portugal and Sweden were the first two teams drawn by FIFA on Monday for the UEFA World Cup playoffs, which will be decided in a two-leg series scheduled for November 15 and 19. The matchup means that only one of Cristiano Ronaldo or Zlatan Ibrahimovic - two of the best players in the world - will be traveling to Brazil next summer.

"World class players like Ronaldo and Ibrahimovic, they do something extra to change the game," Sweden coach Erik Hamren said. "I am pleased we have one, too. But we need our team to be really good."

Gordon Savic (R), Head of the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers holds up the ballot on October 21, 2013 next to former Swiss international Alexander Frei, during the draw ceremony for the 2014 FIFA World Cup European zone playoff matches at the headquarters of the football's world governing body in Zurich. FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Portugal and Sweden were the first names drawn Monday

Portugal and Sweden played to 0-0 draws in their last two meetings, during qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Sweden failed to reach that tournament, while Portugal advanced via a playoff with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"They will be evenly balanced and very competitive games," Portugal coach Paulo Bento said. "Ibrahimovic is an imposing figure, but the Swedes are more than that, they are good collectively."

All eight teams finished second in their qualifying group, meaning they had to participate in the playoffs. Portugal, Greece, Croatia and Ukraine were the seeded teams for Monday's draw based on their record during qualification.

Good track record for France v Ukraine

France, winners of the 1998 World Cup and runners-up in 2006, were given a somewhat kinder draw against Ukraine. It is the second consecutive qualification cycle France have had to go through the playoffs after advancing to South Africa four years ago in a match where Thierry Henry's infamous handball helped them beat Ireland in extra time.

France are currently one spot behind Ukraine in the FIFA rankings at 21, but are unbeaten against them. In seven matches against the Ukrainians, they have had four wins and three draws.

"Ukraine are a team who do not concede a lot of goals, but it's good we are playing the second leg at home," said France coach Didier Deschamps, who added he was happy that his side had avoided a matchup against Portugal.

Iceland look to make history

Minnows Iceland, with a population of just 315,000 people, are looking to become the smallest-ever nation to qualify for the World Cup. The current record is held by 2006 participants Trinidad and Tobago, with 1.2 million people.

Iceland are the lowest ranked team in the playoffs at 46, but are guided by veteran coach Lars Lagerback. The 65-year-old Swede led his own country at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, and Nigeria at the 2010 edition of the tournament.

Croatia, semifinalists in 1998, beat Iceland in the countries' only previous two encounters eight years ago, during qualification for the 2006 World Cup.

Finally, Romania are looking to return to the World Cup for the first time since 1998. Greece, the 2004 European champions, will hope to do better than their last result against the Romanians, when they lost 3-1 in a 2011 friendly.

"The Romanians are of great qualify and dangerous and difficult opponents," said Greece coach Fernando Santos. "The message I send to the Greek fans is to believe in this team, to support us, to fill the stadium to push the team and help us."

The four teams that win will round out Europe's 13 qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup. The Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, England, Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina already qualified after finishing first in their groups.

The draw for all eight groups at next summer's tournament will be held on December 6 in Bahia, Brazil.

dr/mkg (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)