Ibra breaks Denmark hoodoo, eases stress

A jubilant Zlatan Ibrahimovic after scoring in the 2-1 victory against Denmark in their Euro 2016 play-off in Stockholm on Saturday. It was his ninth goal in his last nine European qualifiers.
A jubilant Zlatan Ibrahimovic after scoring in the 2-1 victory against Denmark in their Euro 2016 play-off in Stockholm on Saturday. It was his ninth goal in his last nine European qualifiers. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Victory in Euro first leg diminishes prospect that Sweden star might consider retirement

STOCKHOLM • Days after Zlatan Ibrahimovic hinted that he may retire from international football if his national side lose to Denmark in their Euro 2016 play-off, the striker eased fears of a potential double blow for Sweden.

The Paris Saint-Germain star scored his ninth goal in his last nine European qualifiers to give Sweden a 2-1 win in the first leg on Saturday.

He converted a second-half penalty after Emil Forsberg had scored his first international goal on the stroke of half-time at the Friends Arena.

But Nicolai Jorgensen grabbed an away-goal lifeline for Denmark 10 minutes from time ahead of the second leg in Copenhagen tomorrow.

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    Zlatan Ibrahimovic's career goals

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  • Saturday's goal was the first time the Swede has scored against Denmark

"We won the game and that is the most important thing. But when you concede on your home field, it gives the advantage to them," said Ibrahimovic after netting his 412th goal in 750 career appearances and his first against the Danes.

"There is one game to go and if we can play like we did here, scoring more goals and creating the chances, we have a good chance," added the 34-year-old nicknamed Ibra, who was last week named Sweden's Footballer of the Year for the 10th time.

"The way I feel now, I feel I have more games to go."

Denmark failed to score in their final three group games and created few chances until substitute Jorgensen stole in at the far post to poke the ball home in the 80th minute.

But Denmark manager Morten Olsen believes his side can overturn the deficit in the return leg.

"You have to be confident," he told a news conference. "I think we have the players who can make the difference, it will be a different game."

Billed as a Scandinavian clash between rival strikers Ibrahimovic and Nicklas Bendtner, the more direct approach of the Swedes paid dividends while the Danes put on a remarkably flat performance despite having 63 per cent of the ball.

Ibrahimovic's strike partner Marcus Berg wasted a number of early chances although Bendtner could have put Denmark ahead before Forsberg's goal.

The Wolfsburg man missed from just six metres out after an incisive pass from Christian Eriksen.

Ultimately, it took two substitutes to breach the Swedish backline, Jorgensen latching onto a Yussuf Poulsen flick-on from an Eriksen corner .

"It's always disappointing to concede a goal," said Sweden manager Erik Hamren. "I thought our defence was good for 60 minutes.

"We have won the first game. We know it's only half-time and... it's going to be exciting on Tuesday."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 16, 2015, with the headline 'IBRA BREAKS DENMARK HOODOO, EASES STRESS'. Print Edition | Subscribe