Zlatan Ibrahimovic absence has not affected steely Sweden as they hunt Euros quarter-final berth

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Sweden topped Group E at Euro 2020 despite the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Getty Images)
Sweden topped Group E at Euro 2020 despite the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Getty Images)

It was typical of Zlatan Ibrahimovic that he announced his comeback to international football and Sweden in March with a tweet that simply read: “The return of the God”.

Unfortunately, Sweden will not have “God” with them on Tuesday night when they take on Ukraine at Hampden Park, after Ibrahimovic was forced to pull out of the squad for Euro 2020 in May following a knee injury.

At the time it felt like a bitter blow for Sweden, partly because they had lost Ibrahimovic’s leadership qualities, but also because he had shown, with 15 goals in Serie A last season, that at the age of 39 he could still perform at the highest level.

However, Sweden, just as they did at the 2018 World Cup, have demonstrated they are more than just the ‘Zlatan Ibrahimovic team’ and now they are hungry to repeat the quarter-final appearance that they managed in Russia three years ago.

“I hope we can give a lot more,” said Sweden captain Sebastian Larsson. “That’s our hope and idea.

“We won our group here with seven points, ahead of Spain and Poland, so if you look at that we’ve got a lot out of our game.

“We’ve shown strength that we can handle different games and we can adapt to what the opponent is doing.”

The absence of Ibrahimovic has perhaps been a blessing in disguise for Sweden, who look a more rounded team without the striker.

They are not relying on him to create a moment of magic and instead everyone has stepped up to help.

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

That much was clear in the group stages, where Sweden were undefeated, but also in Monday’s press conference. Head coach Janne Andersson had to field plenty of questions about why he wasn’t starting one player over another, which is evidence he has options and strength in depth.

It is in attack where there is the greatest debate about who should play. Emil Forsberg, who has three goals already, will start out on the left and Larsson should patrol the other flank.

Ahead of them, Alexander Isak is expected to lead the line - but whether Marcus Berg or Robin Quaison is his partner remains to be seen. Fans are also calling for Juventus playmaker Dejan Kulusevski to start after he shone off the bench against Poland last time out.

It is all food for thought for Andersson - and a reminder there is life after Ibrahimovic for Sweden.

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