Ibrahimovic plots Swede revenge

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10) heads the ball past Moldova's Iulian Erhan during their Euro 2016 group G qualifying football match.
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (10) heads the ball past Moldova's Iulian Erhan during their Euro 2016 group G qualifying football match.PHOTO: REUTERS

Chance for team to avenge four losses in a row to Denmark as they battle for Euro place

NYON (Switzerland) • Sweden and Denmark's play-off for a place in next year's European Championship will be much more than just another Scandinavian derby.

The ripple of excitement that went around the room as the seeded Swedes were pitted against the Danes in yesterday's draw in Switzerland only hinted at the significance and intensity of the battle ahead.

This is a derby that has always had an edge to it, as illustrated by the 2007 game in Copenhagen when a Danish fan ran onto the field and attacked referee Herman Frandel, resulting in a 3-0 victory being awarded to the Swedes.

It is also a clash of footballing traditions, with the cultured Danes and their adherence to Dutch-style passing football meeting the technically limited but physically imposing Swedes.

LAST HURRAH?

I don't want to miss Euro 2016. For me, it's unimaginable to see this tournament without me.

ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC Swedish star, who will make an all-out effort to beat Denmark

  • EURO 2016 PLAY-OFF DRAW

  • • Denmark v Sweden


    • Ukraine v Slovenia


    • Bosnia v Ireland


    • Norway v Hungary


    Both legs to be played between Nov 12 and 17, with the winners qualifying for the Euro 2016 Finals in France.

As usual, a war of words awaits in the run-up to the two-legged playoff but the matches could also represent the end of the international road for some of the biggest names in Scandinavian football.

One of the longest-serving international coaches with more than 15 years in the job, Denmark's Morten Olsen has already said he will step down either after the play-off or, if successful, the Euro 2016 Finals in France next year.

On the playing front, injury-plagued Daniel Agger may choose to concentrate on club football and 36-year-old defender Lars Jacobsen is also expected to hang up his international boots.

The subject of much criticism over everything - from team selection to tactics - Olsen's Swedish counterpart Erik Hamren is also highly unlikely to continue when the Euro campaign ends.

On the playing side, Swedes Kim Kallstrom and Sebastian Larsson may head off into the sunset.

But the biggest shadow of all is cast by the looming retirement of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden's all-time leading scorer with 59 goals and the man who essentially dragged a mediocre side into the play-offs single-handedly.

He has scored eight goals in qualifying, and only Poland's Robert Lewandowski (13) and Germany's Thomas Mueller (nine) have netted more times.

Coy about his interest in playing at next year's Rio Olympics, the home leg of the play-off against Denmark could be the last competitive international game the 34-year-old plays on Swedish soil.

"I don't want to miss Euro 2016," said the Paris Saint-Germain star. "For me, it's unimaginable to see this tournament without me."

Yet, Sweden have lost their last four matches against Denmark and have not scored against the Danes in five meetings.

"We wouldn't have wished for Denmark if we had a choice. It was the toughest possible draw," Hamren told uefa.com after drawing the only former European champions in the play-offs.

Denmark defender Erik Sviatchenko is confident about his side's chances of progression.

"We have good recent statistics against Sweden, and we can probably lean against that a bit," he said. "In Simon Kjaer, I think we have the man who can stop Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has done so before, and lately he neutralised Cristiano Ronaldo, so why not Zlatan too?"

The other Scandinavian team in the play-offs, Norway, will face Hungary. In the other ties, Ukraine, who co-hosted Euro 2012 with Poland, will meet Slovenia and Bosnia will face Ireland.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'IBRAHIMOVIC PLOTS SWEDE REVENGE'. Print Edition | Subscribe