It’s not even been 48 hours since brave Sweden produced a gritty defensive display to hold four-time world champions Italy to a goalless stalemate in Milan and yet no one is even talking about their incredible success.
It’s remarkable that this huge undertaking in form of a 1-0 aggregate victory over a country that hasn’t missed a single World Cup final since 1958 is being pushed behind the curtain.
And why is that?
It’s because of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his seemingly innocent social media post in which he celebrated his country’s success by posting a picture of his former teammates and writing “We are Zweden.”
When you give it a more serious thought, that’s just what Zlatan Ibrahimovic does. It’s just the way he is and this tweet was just another perfect example of his power to affect people.
And without even the slightest of hints that he could be returning to the national team and coming out of retirement to re-join Sweden on their Russian adventure, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the talk of the town.
The 36-year-old Manchester United striker has not played a single minute since April due to a knee injury and has yet to return to action for his club, but that did not prevent a good part of the public to speculate with his potential return to Sweden, claiming that with Ibra the Swedes would have bigger chances of producing a notable result at the World Cup.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic left the national team a year and a half ago and his departure was indeed a huge blow for Sweden. As a player of top-class quality and worldwide reputation, Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been the biggest star Sweden had since Henrik Larsson. There is no denying it, Ibrahimovic was a huge presence on the pitch and a player able to produce a piece of magic that would go on to solve games for his national side.
Interestingly enough, whispers of his potential return started spreading almost on the same day when Manchester United striker scored one of the most glorious goals in his entire career – back in 2012.
English football fans remember it far too well as Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s phenomenal overhead kick in a 4-2 friendly victory against the Three Lions in Stockholm. Ibra scored all four goals in a glorious night for his country and it’s now been full five years since he banged that iconic overhead kick from 30 yards out.
A man of undisputed athleticism, physical dominance and sheer football quality would – many could argue – be a huge boost to Sweden’s chances in Russia, but there are other aspects to consider before we allow ourselves a luxury to jump to conclusions and talk up Ibrahimovic’s return to the national fold.
Firstly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s potential return would force head coach Janne Andersson to change his entire style of play. Once Ibra left the national team, Sweden were forced to go through a major change and as tough as it might have been for them to adapt, the Swedes did it and found another style of theirs, one that’s produced remarkable results.
A towering presence in the centre of attack Zlatan Ibrahimovic was a focal point of Sweden’s front line. The Manchester United forward likes to drop deeper to pick up balls, draw opposition defenders on his back and create space for his teammates to exploit – whether it’s on the wings or through the middle.
Better Without Him
Still, with Ibra on the pitch, Sweden were forced to have the entire team working to get Ibrahimovic in a good position to score and it didn’t always bring results.
His selfishness, however, and constant need for attention had in a number of occasions been a problem for Sweden as Ibrahimovic would often disregard his teammates and go on to finish the plays himself thus potentially ruining a far better chance for goal.
Without Ibrahimovic – it turns out – Sweden are now a well-balanced side with not too many big-name stars sticking out to ruin the cohesion and unity. All 11 players are now fighting as one and the team is much different than with Ibrahimovic. And in a better way as well.
Six wins, one draw and three defeats in a World Cup qualifying group that had the likes of France, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Luxembourg and Belarus pitted against them, was more than a respectable result that got Sweden locked in second place and into the play-offs.
Their fantastic unity and team atmosphere greatly contributed to the latest success against Italy and Ibrahimovic’s return could potentially ruin all the great work Andersson’s men have put in to get to where they are now.
The idea of having a player such as Ibrahimovic back for the biggest international competition of them all does indeed sound tempting but a deeper look into Swedish people’s thoughts will reveal that not everyone is convinced the retired striker should be brought back from the closet.
Swedish media outlet Expressen performed a comprehensive survey with 1011 participants to see if Ibrahimovic should return to the national fold and 63% of the participants believe this wouldn’t be such a great idea. Half of that number, 32% think Ibrahimovic should return whereas 4% of the voters were unable to decide.
So what’s your opinion – Should Sweden re-call Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia?
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