Sweden not keen on Zlatan’s World Cup return

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With Zlatan Ibrahimovic already making his mark in Major League Soccer with three goals in his first three games for the LA Galaxy, the veteran Swedish forward is eyeing a return to international duty for the 2018 World Cup this summer.

“A World Cup without me wouldn’t be a World Cup” said Ibrahimovic, 36, recently as he also confirmed during an appearance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show that he will be going to Russia but didn’t give specific details if it was as a spectator or a player.

Well, perhaps we won’t be having a World Cup because it appears not all of his former teammates would be on board if Zlatan took a U-turn on his decision to retire from the Swedish national team after EURO 2016.

Back-up goalkeeper Karl-Johan Johnsson had the following to say to outlet Main Oppose.

“We managed to qualify and go through to the World Cup without him, and I think we can manage to play well at the World Cup without him,” Johnsson said. “But it’s up to the coach to see if he wants to bring him – and I am sure if he does join, he will play well. As a team, we play as a collective, all the players together. With Zlatan, as a person, as a player he’s an individualist, and the play goes around him. Instead, now, we play more the team all together.”

Boom.

Zlatan has said multiple times that he is thinking about a return to the Swedish national team squad and with World Cup squads set to be announced in around about one month from now, surely Sweden’s head coach Janne Andersson must now if he will call up Zlatan.

We all know Zlatan is a quote machine (thanks, pal) and would probably do something amazing like score a flying scissor kick goal in the last minute to beat Germany in the group stage if he did go to to the World Cup. But maybe, just maybe, Sweden would be taken more seriously this summer if Zlatan didn’t go to Russia as it could well become the “Ibrahimovic show: starring the Swedish national team.”

The positives for Sweden are obvious. The can bring in their all-time leading goalscorer to jump off the bench late in tight games to try and get them out of Group F where they face Germany, Mexico and South Korea.

The negatives are centered around what Johnsson said, with Sweden looking like a tighter unit and all pulling together to get to the World Cup after missing out on qualifying for the last two in 2010 and 2014 when Zlatan was around. Not entirely his fault, of course, but there’s something to be said about other stepping up when he departed the international stage almost two years ago.

Zlatan has actually only played in two World Cups, in 2002 and 2006, scoring just once, and if he does go to the World Cup he will be taking the spot of one of Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen and Issac Thelin in the squad. Berg scored eight in qualifying, while Emil Forsberg scored four from midfield and the Swedish attacking unit seems to flow a lot better without Zlatan.

Look, Zlatan will probably go to the World Cup. But it appears not everyone will be happy with this decision.

Odd free kick puts Toronto behind 8-ball

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Alan Pulido’s 72nd minute free kick goal has Toronto FC behind the 8-ball after conceding a pair of away goals to Chivas Guadalajara as part of a 2-1 loss in the CONCACAF Champions League Final first leg at BMO Field.

Rodolfo Pizarro put Chivas up in the second minute, with Jonathan Osorio equalizing before halftime for TFC.

Chivas hosts the second leg at 9:45 p.m. ET on April 25. Toronto will need a two-goal win, a 2-1 win, or a one-goal win with more than three goals scored at Estadio Chivas.

[ PL PREVIEW: Bournemouth-Man Utd ]

Chivas scored in the second minute, Pizarro taking advantage of poor defending from TFC and worse marking from Auro to convert an Isaac Brizuela pass into an early goal.

Toronto leveled the score through its veteran home town hero, the 25-year-old sliding onto the back post cross of Marky Delgado after Sebastian Giovinco dribbled to find Jozy Altidore.

Chivas almost saw a vintage Giovinco free kick goal, but Miguel Jiménez flew to make a two-handed parry of the Italian’s swooping effort.

Delgado got a pretty pass from Giovinco but was pressured into sailing a shot over the bar as the second half began at BMO.

TFC backstop Alex Bono made a massive save when Orbelin Pineda left Michael Bradley for dead and lashed a shot toward the far post.

Giovinco had another free kick from a promising distance that seemed too far, and had it bounce in front of Jimenez leading to a corner kick.

Drew Moor won another corner with a side-footed effort while holding off a defender, as TFC pushed for a goal that could make all the difference in the tie.

Chivas seemingly needed something special to beat Bono a second time, and it kinda got it when the Syracuse product made a mistake on a whirling Pulido free kick from almost corner kick distance.

Giovinco was somehow denied a penalty kick when he was dragged down in the box with just under 15 minutes to play, and the diminutive superstar saw a dragged shot slapped wide of the goal by Jimenez.

Toronto FC to meet Chivas in CCL Final

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Jonathan Osorio’s early goal gave Toronto FC insurance, and Alex Bono made sure it wasn’t needed as the Reds drew Club America 1-1 at Azteca Stadium to beat the Liga MX powers 4-2 over two legs, to advance to the CONCACAF Champions League Final.

The MLS champions and manager Greg Vanney will face Chivas Guadalajara home and away between April 17-19 and April 24-26.

The first leg will be at BMO Field in Canada, and the winner will advance to the Club World Cup in the United Arab Emirates this December 12-22.

[ MORE: Dominant RBNY falls to Chivas ]

Osorio, 26, has been with TFC since 2013, and this was his 176th appearance for the club. Club America scored via stoppage time penalty kick, with Andres Uribe converting the chance.

TFC is just the third MLS team to make a final in the CCL era, and the first since Montreal in 2015.

America has seven CCL titles, the most of any team.

This was a bad sign, an injury to Jozy Altidore:

This was a much better one: Osorio netting an away goal that demanded Club America find three goals or more over the final 78 minutes.

Club America looked like a TFC own goal would put it on the board, but offside was given against the Liga MX powers.

Bono was very, very good.

CCL: TFC holds lead against America, Red Bulls seeking turnaround

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Tuesday night could prove to be a historic one for MLS, but the two clubs representing the league need to finish their business.

The storylines have been drawn out. The task is simple for both Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls. Earn a victory (or in TFC’s case a draw or 1-0 defeat) and the two sides will be on a collision course in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

[ MORE: How will Man City, Liverpool line up on Tuesday? ]

TFC played its first match against Club America brilliantly, and Greg Vanney and his team came away with a 3-1 win that has the reigning MLS Cup champions in the perfect situation as they head to Mexico for the return leg.

Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore continue to play at a high level in the tournament, with the attacking duo having combined for five goals in as many CCL matches.

Meanwhile, the Red Bulls have a bit more challenging task, although far from impossible, as they aim to overcome a 1-0 defeat last week to Chivas in Guadalajara.

Jesse Marsch’s Red Bulls have conceded just three goals in five CCL matches this season, giving the home side on Tuesday a distinct advantage when coupling its defensive prowess with the fact that they boast one of the best goalscorers in the competition with Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Also, Chivas will be at a disadvantage after captain Jair Pereira was suspended by CONCACAF over the weekend for violent misconduct late in the first leg.

Napoli leaves it late to keep title hopes alive

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ROME (AP) Napoli scored twice in the final two minutes for a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Chievo Verona on Sunday that kept the southern squad’s title hopes alive.

Arkadiusz Milik connected with a long pass from Lorenzo Insigne to head in the equalizer in the 89th. Amadou Diawara then quickly controlled the ball and sent a curling shot inside the far post for the winner in added time.

It was the first goal in 69 Serie A appearances for Diawara, a 20-year-old from Guinea who got a rare start in place of the suspended Jorginho.

[ VIDEO: Ronaldo, Griezmann score in derby ]

Napoli moved back within four points of Italian leader Juventus, which won 4-2 at Benevento on Saturday.

The leaders meet in two weeks.

Mariusz Stepinski had put Chievo ahead in the 73rd after being set up by Emanuele Giaccherini, who was loaned by Napoli in January.

Earlier, Dries Mertens had a penalty blocked by Chievo goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino, who has now saved three of his last four penalties.

Also, Napoli’s Lorenzo Tonelli hit the crossbar.

Napoli is aiming for its first Serie A title since Diego Maradona led the club to its only two championships in 1987 and 1990.

SIRIGU SAVES

In the lunchtime fixture, Torino beat visiting Inter Milan 1-0 with a first-half goal from Adem Ljajic and a strong performance from goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu.

Inter winger Ivan Perisic lost control and then involuntarily set up Lorenzo De Silvestri, who placed the ball at the far post for Ljajic to tap in.

Inter remained fourth, one point behind Roma.

Also, relegation-threatened Crotone beat Bologna 1-0 with an early goal from Simeon “Simy” Tochukwu Nwankwo. Hellas Verona, in penultimate place, defeated Cagliari 1-0 with a penalty from Romulo.

More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

Andrew Dampf on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/asdampf