STOCKHOLM: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will return to Sweden’s squad after an almost five-year hiatus to play in World Cup qualifiers at the end of March, head coach Janne Andersson said on Tuesday. The player, known for his not-so-humble ways, also announced his own return, posting a picture of himself on Instagram in the Swedish team kit. The highly-anticipated announcement comes just three months before the European Championship in June-July. The 39-year-old AC Milan striker retired from the Swedish squad after the 2016 European Championship, with 116 caps and 62 international goals.
Media had speculated about Ibrahimovic’s possible return to the national team, but the Swedish Football Association had refused to comment until Tuesday, when he was announced among the players selected for the qualifiers against Georgia on March 25 and Kosovo on March 28, as well as a friendly against Estonia on March 31.
‘Not done yet’
The Swede has made headlines over the years with cheeky hints that he could be returning to the Swedish team. But things took a more serious turn last autumn when, after being awarded Sweden’s Footballer of the Year award for an astonishing 12th time in late November, he said that he missed playing for the team.
“The one who does not miss it, he has already finished his career. And I have not finished my career,” he told Swedish daily Aftonbladet. Ibrahimovic and coach Janne Andersson then met for talks. Andersson told reporters Tuesday: “I think we’ll be a better team with Zlatan, that’s why he was selected.” And in a statement he developed that thought, saying the towering 1.95m (6foot 4in) forward had been selected “first and foremost because he’s a very good football player, the best we’ve ever had in Sweden.”
“So it’s of course great that he wants to come back. In addition to what he can contribute on the pitch, he has loads of experience and can also share that with other players on the team,” he added. Without “Ibra”, Sweden reached the 2018 World Cup quarter-finals and qualified directly for Euro 2020, which has been postponed to June-July 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the first round Sweden will face Spain, Poland and Slovakia in Group E. Andersson said he would announce the squad for the Euro in May. – AFP