Friday, March 31, 2023

Ibrahimovic returns to Sweden squad for Euro 2024 qualifiers at 41

SoccerNews in Serie A 15 Mar 2023

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic is set to return to international duty with Sweden after he was selected for their Euro 2024 qualifiers against Belgium and Azerbaijan.

The Milan forward has spent most of the season on the sidelines after undergoing a knee operation at the end of the 2021-22 campaign, following a Serie A title triumph.

Despite having only played just over an hour across three games since his return this year, the 41-year-old has been included in Janne Andersson’s latest squad.

Speaking on his decision to bring the veteran in despite questions over his fitness, the coach praised the forward’s influence off the pitch while stressing he will have a role to play on it.

“Zlatan and I have been in contact throughout the period up to and including his injury,” he said.

“Now he feels good enough that he can come into the squad.

“His personality and leadership qualities are good off the pitch, but the idea is for him to come and contribute on it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have picked him.”

Ibrahimovic’s last appearance for Sweden came almost a year ago, when the country were eliminated by Poland in the World Cup play-offs for Qatar 2022.

Then, he was a substitute, and Andersson acknowledges he is likely to play a role from the bench again when called upon for their upcoming fixtures.

“I don’t see him as a starting player,” he added. “It will be more like what it has been for him in Milan, that there are opportunities for him to jump in.”

Andersson further underlined that Ibrahimovic’s selection would not be the final time he was called up despite his advanced age, and says the ball is in the player’s court over his international future.

“If you are at the level where you can play for Milan, you are relevant,” he added.

“It is about his own attitude too in terms of whether he wants to continue or not. Zlatan is very eager and wants to contribute.”

With 121 games under his belt, Ibrahimovic is the sixth-most-capped player in Sweden history, though he still has some way to go if he wants to take the all-time record of 148 caps from former midfielder Anders Svensson.

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