Thursday. 09.02.2023
FOOTBALL

Return of the God: Sweden comeback for veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Ibrahimovic could also be involved in Euro 2020, delayed to this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, where Sweden meet Spain, Poland and Slovakia.

FILED - 22 June 2016, France, Nice: Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic smiles before the start of a match. Veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been recalled to the Sweden squad for the first time since retiring from international football in 2016. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic smiles before the start of a match. Photo: Federico Gambarini/dpa/file photo.

Veteran forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic has been recalled to the Sweden squad for the first time since retiring from international football in 2016.

After months of speculation, Sweden coach Janne Andersson on Tuesday called up the 39-year-old Ibrahimovic for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Georgia and Kosovo, and a friendly against Estonia.

"First and foremost, he is a very good football player, the best we have had in Sweden," Andersson told the Swedish Football Association's website.

"Of course it's great that he wanted to return," the coach added, noting that "in addition to what he can contribute on the pitch he has an incredible lot of experience."

In a post on Twitter, Ibrahimovic posted a photo of himself in the national jersey against the backdrop of a yellow wall of Swedish spectators, with the words "The return of the God."

Andersson announced his 26-strong squad as Sweden open their World Cup qualification at home on March 25, hosting Georgia, and three days later play Kosovo away.

Andersson said Sweden will "focus on each upcoming match, one at a time."

Ibrahimovic could also be involved in Euro 2020, delayed to this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, where Sweden meet Spain, Poland and Slovakia.

Broadcaster SVT quoted Andersson warning the Euros "are some months off. But since he has said yes, that also means the Euros."

However, Sweden's run to the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia - without their talisman - was their best performance since they reached the last eight of Euro 2004 with Ibrahimovic on board.

Andersson said he talked to Ibrahimovic on Monday to check his status: "He gave the go-ahead to be selected. I am happy about that."

Top scorer

Ibrahimovic currently plays for AC Milan in Italy's Serie A, where he is the club's top scorer.

A return for Ibrahimovic has been on the cards, and speculation was fuelled after he in November said that he missed playing for the national team in a newspaper interview.

Andersson met Ibrahimovic in November in Milan a few days after the interview, and apparently cleared the air.

"He will play forward in our national team. In recent years, he has adapted his game to be higher up in the pitch, taking his age into consideration," Andersson said.

Ibrahimovic - Sweden's all-time top goalscorer - stepped down from the national squad after Euro 2016, having chalked up a record 62 goals in 116 appearances.

"It's great that Zlatan is back. He is a leader who will lift us all. Fantastic for Swedish football, in my eyes he is still one of the world's best strikers," RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg told SVT.

Familiar names in the Sweden squad include Everton goalkeeper Robin Olsen, defender Mikael Lustig and midfielder Sebastian Larsson of Swedish top-flight side AIK, Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof, Juventus's Dejan Kulusevski, and forwards Marcus Berg of Krasnodar and Real Sociedad's Alexander Isak.

Andersson said competition was fierce among the players, which would make it "even harder to select a team. I'm glad we have so many players to choose from."

Return of the God: Sweden comeback for veteran Zlatan Ibrahimovic
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