At the final whistle of Sweden’s 3-2 World Cup playoff defeat at home to Portugal on Tuesday night, Swedish captain and global superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic cut a forlorn figure as Portgual’s players celebrated qualification to the 2014 World Cup.
Zlatan, 32, knows his last chance to shine on the world stage had just been snatched away from him. And, perhaps sadly, the world may never get another chance to see Ibrahimovic light up the globe’s biggest tournament again.
This summers World Cup won’t be the same without him. In true Ibra fashion, he even said it himself.
“It was probably the last attempt to reach the World Cup with the national team for me,” Ibrahimovic said. “One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch so it is not worthwhile to wait for the World Cup.”
You have to love his honesty, even if some find his outlandish arrogance annoying. The guy is a stud and scored two great goals to give the Swedes a faint hope of overturning Portugal’s 2-0 lead in the second leg. But Ibra’s stunning salvo in four second half minutes proved fruitless as his arch-nemesis Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat trick and took the top prize and all four of Portugal’s goals in the clash dubbed as Zlatan vs. Ronaldo.
Ibra was gracious, yet disheartened, in defeat.
“Congratulations to Portugal but both teams deserved to get to the World Cup,” Ibrahimovic continued. “The disappointment of course is great now that the World Cup in Brazil will remain a dream for the Swedish national team.”
The second leg of this European World Cup playoff lived up to the billing of a supreme battle between two of world soccer’s greatest players. Ronaldo scored four times, Zlatan twice and Portugal won 4-2 on aggregate. On reflection the Portuguese deserved to make the dance and their squad is a lot stronger than Sweden’s. I have no hesitation in predicting that Portugal will at least make the quarterfinals at Brazil 2014 and that Ronaldo will take the tournament by storm.
As for Ibrahimovic… he’s said he won’t even be watching it. I’ll leave you with his thoughts on a Ibrahimovic-less World Cup one more time.
“One thing is for sure, a World Cup without me is nothing to watch.”