Euro 2016

Ibrahimovic: Euro 2016 my last outing for Sweden

GROUP E

Sweden v Belgium

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NICE • Sweden star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirmed yesterday that he would retire from international football at the end of the Euro 2016 tournament.

On the eve of their crunch Group E match against Belgium, the ever-quotable 34-year-old said: "The last game (at Euro 2016) will be my last for Sweden, so I hope it will not be tomorrow.

"I am very proud of what I have achieved and will always bring the Swedish flag with me."

Sweden face Belgium today needing a win to have a realistic chance of qualifying for the last 16.

If Ibrahimovic scores, he could become the first man to find the net in four separate editions of the competition, with six goals in the 2004, 2008 and 2012 tournaments. The other player vying for the same honour is Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo.

However, Kevin de Bruyne is not overly worried about the presence of Ibrahimovic, especially given the talent in the Belgium squad.

"It is important for us not to focus too much on Ibrahimovic individually, but keep an eye on Sweden in general," he said. "Of course, he has a lot of quality, but we have several great players who can make the difference as well."

Neither side can catch Group E leaders Italy, having both lost to the Azzurri. But Marc Wilmots' side will travel to Nice in a confident mood after a 3-0 win over Ireland in their previous match, with key striker Romelu Lukaku netting twice.

The sides met once before in the Euro 2000 opening game, when co-hosts Belgium - with Wilmots in the line-up - won 2-1 in Brussels.

Belgium did not play in the Euro again until now.

However, with the current star-studded generation, high hopes are matched by a sense the time has arrived for the team to justify their No. 2 world ranking.

A win today would see Sweden leapfrog Belgium and likely see them finish ahead of Ireland too, with the latter facing Italy in their final game.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2016, with the headline 'Ibrahimovic: Euro 2016 my last outing for Sweden'. Print Edition | Subscribe