Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic: back on duty for Sweden national squad

Agency Report

AC Milan 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.

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

Andersson was also quoted as 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.”

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

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

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

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.

Source dpa/NAN