Russia send Ibra and Swedes to play-offs

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic dribbling the ball past Moldova 'keeper Ilie Cebanu to score the opening goal. Despite the 2-0 victory, Russia's storming finish means the Swedes must win a play-off to avoid missing a second straight major tournament.
Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic dribbling the ball past Moldova 'keeper Ilie Cebanu to score the opening goal. Despite the 2-0 victory, Russia's storming finish means the Swedes must win a play-off to avoid missing a second straight major tournament.PHOTO: REUTERS

SOLNA (Sweden) • Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is in talks to release a film about himself.

But it remains to be seen if he will be starring at next year's European Championship.

The Paris Saint-Germain man scored his eighth goal in as many qualifiers on Monday, as Sweden defeated Moldova 2-0 in Euro 2016 Group G qualifying.

Sweden, however, must come through a two-legged play-off next month if they are to avoid missing a major tournament for the second straight time and their first European championship since 1996.

Ibrahimovic, 34, was one of the biggest absentees at last year's World Cup in Brazil and remains a doubt for the continental showpiece after Russia brushed aside Montenegro 2-0 in Moscow.

Oleg Kuzmin scored his first goal for his country after 33 minutes and they went 2-0 up when Vladimir Rodic sent Dmitry Kombarov tumbling in the penalty area four minutes later.

Alexander Kokorin stepped up to send the goalie the wrong way.

It was a fourth straight win for Leonid Slutsky since he replaced the sacked Fabio Capello and ensured that the 2018 World Cup hosts will be guests at France's party.

"My men were really great. They've got our team out of trouble in an almost dead-end situation in this campaign," said Slutsky.

Russia were third in Group G, with just eight points from six matches when he took charge. And they needed a perfect finish to finish two points ahead of Sweden in second on 20 points.

Austria, 3-0 winners over Liechtenstein in Vienna, topped the pool on 28 points following their unbeaten campaign.

Joining them in France will be Slovakia, who secured their first trip to the championship as an independent country.

Marek Hamsik scored twice and Slovakia netted three goals in a six-minute span to beat Luxembourg 4-2 in Group C.

Elsewhere in Group E, Slovenia secured a play-off berth after second-half headers by captain Bostjan Cesar and Nejc Pecnik gave them a 2-0 win in San Marino.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'Russia send Ibra and Swedes to play-offs'. Print Edition | Subscribe