Zlatan sets up winner, says it feels like debut

STOCKHOLM • Zlatan Ibrahimovic said it felt like his Sweden debut, as he set up the decisive goal in his first international appearance in nearly five years in Thursday's 1-0 home win over Georgia in 2022 World Cup qualifying.

The 39-year-old played his last Sweden game at Euro 2016 before wearing his country's shirt again for the 117th time in their Group B opener. He fed Viktor Claesson in the first half to help the Swedes start the campaign with a victory in a group with Spain, Greece and Kosovo, where they head tomorrow.

"It felt good. It felt like it was my first international match. It was a lot of adrenaline," said Ibrahimovic, who made his Sweden debut in 2001. "I think I could have done a lot more. But we won the match, and that is the most important thing."

Sweden's record scorer made up a new-look strike partnership with 21-year-old Alexander Isak.

The hosts dominated the opening 30 minutes in Stockholm and came close to breaking the deadlock after 25 minutes. Winger Claesson found Isak in the box but the Real Sociedad attacker's weak effort was parried away with ease by Giorgi Loria.

Ibrahimovic's moment of magic came 10 minutes later. He chested the ball before playing a delicate touch to Claesson, who volleyed to make it 1-0 with his second international goal in as many games.

AC Milan star Ibrahimovic had a chance to add to his 62 goals for the national team six minutes from the interval, but his limp shot dribbled past the post.

Georgia made an energetic start after the break but they failed to create a clear-cut chance.

Ibrahimovic made way for Mainz striker Robin Quaison in the 84th minute and Janne Andersson's side held on for three points, but the Sweden coach was not totally pleased.

He said: "If we talk (about) our attacking game... we are very stagnant. It was far too bad movement in our own game. Overall, we make a match that we are absolutely not happy with.

"Based on that, I am very happy with three points. Today was a day when it was not good enough in terms of performance."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 27, 2021, with the headline 'Zlatan sets up winner, says it feels like debut'. Subscribe