England's Rivals: Sweden: Arrogance and flair the mark of Zlatan

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The Independent Football

The towering striker, 24, shoots from the lip with even more gusto than he does on the pitch for Juventus. Opinionated and often accused of arrogance, the boy from Malmo is the latest star of Nike's TV adverts and will be seen on screens throughout the World Cup, firing venomous volleys into the net. His party trick is spitting out chewing gum and juggling it on his feet before flicking it back into his mouth.

This son of immigrants is the one player that Arsène Wenger regrets allowing to slip away from Arsenal's grasp. "Zlatan is one of the best strikers in the world," declares Lars Largerback, his national coach. His colleague, Niclas Alexandersson, recognises a fundamental difference in the kid who grew up in Malmo's tough Rosengard district. "I don't think there has ever been a Swedish player who is as confident in himself as Zlatan," said the former Everton midfielder. "We Swedes don't like to say we're the favourites to win or things like that, but Zlatan is very confident and has the ability to back it up."

Ibrahimovic's cockiness irritated many early on, but a £6m move from Malmo to Ajax and a £12m transfer to Juve have seen his reputation soar. He is not a prolific scorer - just 38 in three years at Ajax - but he has flair, as one Champions' League solo slalom in Amsterdam against Internaz-ionale underlined. His audacious backheel goal at Euro 2004 against Italy illustrated an unorthodox touch and he has learned much under Henrik Larsson, 10 years his senior, as their partnership has flourished in recent seasons.

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