Kevin De Bruyne has insisted Belgium do not fear Zlatan Ibrahimovic ahead of their decisive Group E encounter with Sweden on Wednesday.
The Belgians will book their ticket for the round of 16 if they manage to avoid defeat in their final Euro 2016 group game, having beaten Republic of Ireland 3-0 after their previous loss at the hands of Italy.
Sweden still have a chance of progressing as well, though, and will be relying on Ibrahimovic to lead them past Marc Wilmots’ men at the Stade de Nice.
But De Bruyne is not overly worried about the presence of the veteran striker, especially given the talent in the Belgium squad.
“It is important for us not to focus too much on Ibrahimovic individually, but keep an eye on Sweden in general,” De Bruyne told reporters.
“I have already played against him earlier this season. Ibrahimovic is a player like any other. Of course, he has a lot of quality, but we have several great players who can make the difference as well.
“Losing and winning is part of the game. We lost a match and then won the next one. We now have to focus on the next match. We have to replicate our performance from the game against Ireland versus Sweden.”
Sweden, meanwhile, still have every chance of reaching the knockout stages, despite their unfortunate 1-0 loss at the hands of Italy on matchday two.
A win on Wednesday would see them leapfrog Belgium in the table and would likely see them finish ahead of Ireland, too, with the latter facing Italy in their final game.
Sebastian Larsson realises Sweden are in for a difficult game, however, and has warned his team-mates about Belgium’s quality in midfield and attack.
“I have to be honest here, Belgium have a lot more individual quality than Sweden,” Larsson said at a news conference.
“Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are hugely talented and very strong in one-on-ones. It will be a tough task to stop them.
“And then they have Romelu Lukaku up front, who is a lethal attacker.”
Key Opta facts:
– Both sides have met 14 times previously, Sweden winning five and Belgium winning seven.
– Romelu Lukaku has scored six goals in his last six games for Belgium.
– Zlatan Ibrahimovic has yet to hit a single shot on target or set up a single attempt for Sweden over the first two games of Euro 2016.
– Belgium have not drawn any of their last nine European Championship games, winning three and losing six since their last stalemate – a 0-0 draw against Italy in 1980.
– Sweden have lost five of their last seven games at the European championship.
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