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Ibrahimovic prepares to leave Sweden's national team

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Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Euro 2016 would be his last international tournament with Sweden. Reuters/Eric Gaillard

Timing is a fundamental part of the striker’s art. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has displayed the gift throughout his garlanded career at Ajax, Juventus, Milan, Inter, Barcelona and Paris St Germain.


In his appearances for an array of the world's most famous clubs, he has terrorised defences and plundered hundreds of goals. He has also scored more than 60 times for Sweden during 15 years of wearing the national colours.

Could the game against Belgium be his swan song? Ibrahimovic declared on the eve of the clash in Nice that Euro 2016 would witness his final appearances for Sweden.

Sweden go into the game against Belgium needing victory. They drew their first match on 13 June against Ireland 1-1 and lost their second against Italy 1-0. The omens look grim for Sweden.
Belgium - one of the favourites for the Euro 2016 title - appear to have hit their stride. After their opening day loss to Italy, Romelu Lukaku bagged a brace as Belgium swept past Ireland 3-0 in Bordeaux on 18 June.

“I hope the last game will not be against Belgium,” said Ibrahimovic. “I won’t participate in the Olympics with Sweden, so my last game for Sweden will be the last game Sweden plays in this tournament. So let’s hope it goes on as long as possible.”

At 34, the moment could be right for Ibrahimovic to withdraw from a national team that he overshadows.

Before the tournament in France started, he said that his role as skipper and star was to absorb the pressure and inspire the rest of the team.

“Of course we try to take advantage of him being in the team,” said Sweden striker Marcus Berg. The 29-year-old added: “Opponents are looking for him and that gives other players a bit more space. And we also have to try and make space for him.

"He is a top striker and he is someone that we are really lucky to have. He helped us to come here. He is a big player but on the field we are 11 players so we have to do it together.”

Perhaps from 23 June, Sweden’s national players will have to do it without that man Zlatan.