Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored twice on Tuesday as Sweden drew 2-2 away at Denmark in the second leg of their EURO 2016 playoff as the Swedes qualified for the finals in France next summer ourtesy of a 4-3 aggregate win.
[ MORE: Behind-the-scenes at Wembley ]
After the game Ibrahimovic, 34, had a blunt message for the people of Denmark as he had previously stated he would retire from international play either after EURO 2016 or if Sweden didn’t make it to the finals tournament.
“They said they were going to send me to retirement,” Ibrahimovic said. “I sent their whole nation into retirement.”
How do you come back from that?
We are talking about a man who loves to be controversial and speak about himself in the third person. He has previously stated that he single-handedly put French and Swedish soccer on the world map and “daring to Zlatan” has become a phrase synonymous with outlandish comments such as saying “I don’t need Ballon d’Or to know I’m the best” and claiming the U.S. will win the World Cup… then laughing about it.
“If I have to finish with a Euros, then that’s destiny,” Ibrahimovic added. “Thanks for all the support and see you in France. There’s still a few months [before it begins] but we’ll be there.”
Despite the years ticking by Zlatan is in great form for club and country this season — in his own words “I’m like wine, I get better with age” — and his three goals for Sweden over the two legs of the playoff win against Scandinavian rivals Denmark took the skipper’s tally to 62 goals in 111 for his nation.
In his time at Paris Saint-Germain he has become their all-time leading goalscorer with 115 goals in 140 games for Les Parisiens and with his PSG contract running out at the end of this season, playing for Sweden in France next summer could be the perfect way to end his time on French soil before a new chapter awaits. Links with a move to Major League Soccer continue but for now, let’s sit back, once again, and enjoy his razor-sharp tongue and quick-wit.
The field for EURO 2016 is officially set, as Sweden and Ukraine became the final two teams to book a trip to France next summer. The groups will be drawn in December, with the tournament being held over a month from June 10-July 10.
[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s EURO coverage ]
Denmark 2-2 Sweden
(Sweden advances 4-3 on aggregate)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had never scored against Denmark before these play-offs, but that all changed pretty quickly. After scoring a penalty kick in the first leg, Zlatan scored both goals today to lead Sweden into EURO 2016. His first goal came in the 19th minute, running onto a corner kick from Kim Kallstrom to give Sweden a 3-1 aggregate lead. His second came in the 76th minute, bending a brilliant free kick over the wall and into the top corner, sealing a spot in the final. Denmark rallied late, with Yussuf Poulsen and Janik Vestergaard scoring in the final ten minutes to try and force extra-time, but they could not overcome the deficit as Sweden advances 4-3 on aggregate.
Slovenia 1-1 Ukraine (Ukraine advances 3-1 on aggregate)
Slovenia needed two goals and got off to a quick start, grabbing a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute. Former West Bromwich defender Bostjan Cesar was able to flick one home after a scramble in the box, giving life to his Slovenian side. However, Ukraine caught Slovenia on the counter as Andriy Yarmolenko sealed the deal with a goal deep into stoppage time, advancing to EURO 2016, 3-1 on aggregate.
The Republic of Ireland could be getting some key players back for Monday’s EURO 2016 qualifying playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Southampton striker Shane Long and Sunderland defender John O'Shea could both be fit after missing out on the first leg through injury, which ended in a 1-1 draw.
Stoke City’s Jonathan Walters will also be available after serving a suspension.
[ MORE: Jesse Lingard gets England call-up ]
Shane Long hasn’t played in a month after suffering a knee injury, although he scored the game-winner in Ireland’s shocking win over Germany in their last match in Dublin. The Saints’ striker has a knack for scoring off the bench, so he could be used in that role if he is unable to go the full 90 minutes.
While the 34-year-old John O’Shea may have lost a step over the years, he still has more than 100 caps for his country and would bring some veteran leadership to the center of defense.
[ RELATED: Giovinco’s agent confirms Barcelona interest, denies possible move ]
Another decision the manager will have to make is whether to play Robbie Keane. The 35-year-old is Ireland’s all-time leader in goals and appearances, but did not play in the first leg in Bosnia. O’Neill admitted he could not “turn back the clock,” but said he has certainly not ruled out the LA Galaxy striker. If a late goal is needed, Robbie Keane would be the man to get it.
Despite getting a key away goal in the first leg, manager Martin O’Neill said his side will still play for the win in Dublin, knowing Edin Dzeko and Bosnia are more than capable of getting on the scoresheet.
Jesse Lingard has been called up to the England side for Tuesday’s friendly against France.
The 22-year-old has featured 11 times for the U-21’s, but this is his first call-up to the senior team.
[ MORE: EURO 2016 roundup ]
His Manchester United teammate Michael Carrick was injured in England’s match against Spain, while Leicester City’s Jamie Vardy will also miss out on the France match through injury.
Lingard has recently become a regular for Louis Van Gaal, starting four of United’s last six matches, and scoring his first goal for the club in their win over West Brom.
Roy Hodgson’s England side will host France at Wembley on Tuesday, as both federations decided the match would go on as planned after the terror attacks in Paris.
[ RELATED: Mario Balotelli could need hernia surgery at Milan ]
With the Three Lions safely qualified for EURO 2016, Hodgson has chosen to give a few new players some looks in these friendlies. Tottenham’s Eric Dier earned his first cap against Spain on Friday, while his Spurs teammate Dele Alli made his third appearance for the national team.
In the first match of their EURO qualifying playoffs, both Sweden and Ukraine earned big home victories to take control heading into the second leg, which will be held on Tuesday, November 17.
Sweden 2-1 Denmark
In a battle between Scandinavian rivals, Sweden held on through heavy pressure to earn a 2-1 win over Denmark.
The Swedes took a lead just before halftime, as Mikael Lustig took a clever back-heel down the right wing. Lustig’s cross found Emil Forsberg, who buried his shot into the side netting. Zlatan nearly doubled the lead in stoppage time with a shot headed for the top corner, but Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel made a brilliant save to keep it a one-goal game. Zlatan would get some revenge just five minutes into the second half, finishing off a penalty kick to put Sweden ahead 2-0.
However, Denmark scored an all-important away goal in the 80th minute through Nicolai Jorgensen, which could prove massive in the second leg.
[ RELATED: Manchester United’s Michael Carrick injured on international duty ]
Ukraine 2-0 Slovenia
Ukraine extended their unbeaten streak in Lviv to 14 games, keeping a clean sheet against Slovenia in a 2-0 win. It was a dominant performance by the Ukrainians, as Slovenia didn’t manage a single attempt on target. Andriy Yarmolenko continued his stellar season for both club and country, opening the scoring in the 23rd minute. Yevhen Seleznyov would double the lead ten minutes into the second half, as Ukraine holds a big advantage heading into the second leg.