It seems Sweden are not really missing Zlatan Ibrahimovic!
For the first time since 2001, Sweden are without Ibrahimovic up front and not only did they qualify for the FIFA World Cup 2018, they made their first quarter-finals in 24 years.
Ibrahimovic had been Sweden’s leading man for years and has been awarded the Swedish player of the year for a record 11 times, 10 of them consecutively from 2007 to 2016.
But with Ibrahimovic in their side, Sweden made it till last 16 of the World Cup in 2002 and 2006 and did not even qualify in 2010 and 2014.
The 2014 qualifiers, in fact, was the infamous battle between Sweden and Portugal on the final day when Cristiano Ronaldo’s hat-trick steered Portugal into the World Cup at the cost of Sweden.
During Zlatan times, Sweden scored goals, a number of them, some stylish and some solid, mostly coming from their main man but with his retirement, there were a lot of questions raised on Sweden’s relevance.
However, Sweden now look more like a unit. Yes, they are pragmatic and they are not a side you would see scoring a lot but they grind out victories.
They showed that in the qualifiers as well.
The way they beat Italy 1-0 on aggregate in the World Cup play-offs to knock the 2006 champions out was in itself a statement and something that they will always hold dear.
In the World Cup, Sweden defeated Korea Republic 1-0, lost out to Germany 1-2 narrowly and then thumped Mexico 3-0 to reach the Round of 16.
In their last 16 match on Tuesday, Sweden weathered Switzerland storm, defended like a unit and ground out a 1-0 victory.
Throughout this World Cup, Swedish goals have come from Andreas Granqvist, Ola Toivonen, Ludwig Augustinsson, Edson Alvarez and Emil Forsberg, showing exactly why they are impressive and perhaps better off without Ibrahimovic.
Every single match, different players have stepped up for Sweden and got home the victory.
With Ibrahimovic gone, Sweden no more have a focal point. Like most teams with one big player, they do not have any one player who will be marked and targeted. Instead, they have a team, where anyone, anytime can come up and perform.
When Sweden had Ibrahimovic, they had someone they could depend on for goals, someone who all their passes were directed at but now they cannot depend on any single player, they have no other choice than to be a team and that seems to be working for them.
They can be called pragmatic, they can be called boring and staunch but in the end, they are getting what is required — a victory.
Social media did not think differently. It did not take time for people to point out that Sweden have put up their best performance in years and all of that without ‘Lord Zlatan’.
News credit : Indiatoday