Ibra hails 'fabulous' euro qualification

Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second from left) celebrating with his Sweden team-mates, after the 2-2 draw with Denmark in Copenhagen on Tuesday gave them a 4-3 win on aggregate to qualify for Euro 2016.
Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic (second from left) celebrating with his Sweden team-mates, after the 2-2 draw with Denmark in Copenhagen on Tuesday gave them a 4-3 win on aggregate to qualify for Euro 2016.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Striker boasts he sent Danes into retirement after scoring twice in 2-2 draw to seal berth

COPENHAGEN • Zlatan Ibrahimovic ensured that he had the last laugh over Denmark on Tuesday, after guiding Sweden into Euro 2016 by scoring both goals in a 2-2 draw in Copenhagen to complete a 4-3 aggregate success in their play-off tie.

"They (Denmark) were going to send me into retirement, but I sent their whole country into retirement," said the Paris Saint-Germain striker, who hooked home from a corner by Kim Kallstrom in the 19th minute and made it 2-0 by curling a brilliant free kick into the top-right corner 14 minutes from time.

The striker was denied a hat-trick by a smart save from Kasper Schmeichel, but securing a place in France next summer was enough for the Sweden captain.

"We were the best in the play-offs," he said. "This is just fabulous."

Having famously boasted that last year's World Cup in Brazil would not be worth watching owing to his absence, Ibrahimovic claimed next year's Euro Finals in France will be "magic" after his side qualified.

"It will be magic. It will be big magic for me to be there," the 34-year-old said.

Should the prolific striker continue in the form he is currently enjoying, it will also be magic for Sweden's supporters, even if it is the player's swan-song.

"It is probably going to be my last tournament with the national team and I am very excited because before these two play-off games there was all this kind of talk that we were not able to beat Denmark," he said. "Now we are very happy and I am satisfied. I let my feet talk. I don't talk in public."

For once, that statement was true. Ibrahimovic was, by his own lofty standards, kept quiet enough by Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer, but he worked harder than ever in defence, and, when his chances came, he took them with aplomb.

Denmark, for whom Morten Olsen has stepped down after 15 years as coach, dominated the opening stages, with Kallstrom hitting his own post, and broke through only in the latter stages with the tie already settled.

Yussuf Poulsen made it 2-1 in the 81st minute when he headed home from a cross by Riza Durmisi before Christian Eriksen's delivery was headed in by Jannik Vestergaard in stoppage time.

In Maribor, Ukraine ended their play-off jinx by eliminating Slovenia after a 1-1 draw and became the last team to qualify for Euro 2016.

Beaten in all their previous five play-offs for leading tournaments, Ukraine had won the home leg 2-0 but fell behind to a header by Bostjan Cesar in the 11th minute.

They endured some nervous moments but, after their opponents lost Miso Brecko to a red card in stoppage time, they equalised through Andriy Yarmolenko with the last kick of the game.

With tempers occasionally flaring on the pitch, Slovenia's fans hurled several flares into Ukraine's penalty box in the closing stages, much to the dismay of the home team's players and coach Srecko Katanec.

After the final whistle, Ukraine winger Yevhen Konoplyanka slammed the hosts for what he saw as spoiling tactics.

"Slovenia did not play football, they just provoked, spat and elbowed and that's why I am twice as happy to have gone through," he said. "I told everyone before the game that we would qualify for Euro 2016 because we are the team that wanted to play football."

THE TIMES, LONDON, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 19, 2015, with the headline 'Ibra hails 'fabulous' euro qualification'. Print Edition | Subscribe