Ibrahimovic: ‘A world cup without me is not worth watching’ as Sweden succumb to Ronaldo’s heroics

24 Comments

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.”

(MORE: Ronaldo topples Zlatan – Real Madrid star’s hat trick sends Portugal past Sweden, into 2014 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.”

(MORE: 31 down; one to go – Updated list of countries qualified for FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil)

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.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 2

Leave a comment

Layla Anna-Lee has a new show and, well, it’s unbiased. At least occasionally…

In the second episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Layla Anna-Lee looks at the best moments from the first set of matches in the 2018 World Cup.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

Brazil waste Coutinho’s stunner, draw Switzerland in opener

AP Photo/Themba Hadebe
Leave a comment

Brazil started brilliantly and raced out to an early lead, but the five-time World Cup winners — and one of a handful of favorites in 2018 — disappointed in the end as they settled for a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in the two sides’ Group E opener.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring after 20 minutes, turning home a stunning strike from distance, off the inside of the post, to settle any early nerves and give Tite’s Selecao a 1-0 lead (WATCH HERE).

It wasn’t Brazil’s first golden scoring chance of the game, though, as Coutinho and Neymar combined down the left wing to send the latter into space inside the penalty area. Neymar played a first-time cross into the six-yard box, but Paulinho‘s scuffed effort from close range was tipped around the post by Yann Sommer.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

A bit of complacency and real lack of urgency washed over Brazil as soon as they went ahead, affording Switzerland every opportunity to get back in the game.

Vladimir Petkovic’s side needed just five second-half minutes to draw level, thanks to some shoddy set-piece defending by Brazil. Steven Zuber took up a spot at the near post, virtually unmarked inside the six-yard box, and headed past Alisson.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

The game’s most controversial moment came just after the 70-minute mark, when Gabriel Jesus was bear-hugged inside the penalty area. Wrapped up from behind, the Manchester City forward was blatantly prevented from getting to the ball after a quick passage of smooth build-up, but referee Cesar Arturo Ramos Palazuelos was unmoved and no video review was enacted.

By the full-time whistle, Brazil had piled up 21 shots (just four on target) compared to just six from Switzerland (two). Despite on-target efforts from Neymar and Renato Augusto inside the game’s final five minutes, a winner wasn’t on the cards and the sides were forced to split the points.

Up next for Brazil is a clash with Costa Rica on Friday, while Switzerland will face Serbia the same day. The Serbs topped the Costa Ricans in Sunday’s first game, putting them top of the group after after the first of three rounds in Group E.

Video: Coutinho’s curler has Brazil flying early

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
1 Comment

It took 20 minutes for the Selecao to get on the board, but Brazil looks every bit as good as advertised.

Tite’s side struck nearly halfway through the opening stanza when Barcelona star Philippe Coutinho curled his shot from distance off the inside of the post against Switzerland.

The Brazilians came close on several occasions prior to Coutinho’s opener, but the 26-year-old made good on the misses with his first career World Cup tally.

El Tri may have caused small earthquake back in Mexico City

Lukasz Laskowski/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images
1 Comment

It was impossible to ignore the magnitude of Mexico’s 1-0 win over Germany on Sunday, and it apparently caused waves all over the world.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Although a large contingent of El Tri fans were present in Moscow, Russia for the team’s win over the defending World Cup champions, it wasn’t comparable to the scenes back home.

Supporters were reportedly so enthused by the match that it’s quite possible they started a minor earthquake in Mexico City.

The earthquake reading came at 11:32 am ET, right around the time when Hirving Lozano gave El Tri the lead over their Group F opponent.