Cast your mind back to November 2012. Roy Hodgson’s England have just lost 4-2 to Sweden in Stockholm and Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored all four goals, including a stunning bicycle kick from outside the area.
Six years on and England are preparing to face Sweden for a first appearance in the World Cup semi-final since 1990. England have beaten their quarter-final opponents twice in their last 15 attempts, and Ibrahimovic believes that this record makes Sweden favourites to win.
“Sweden has a good chance,” said Ibrahimovic who retired from International football after the European Championship in 2016. “I am Swedish and I believe in Sweden against England.
“But now it’s not just about how good you are. Now there are a lot of emotions in the picture, because it’s about quarterfinals. The team that can handle their feelings best will have an advantage.”
Sweden topped their group ahead of Germany and Mexico then beat Switzerland 1-0 in the round of 16 to advance to the quarter-final for the first time since 1994, bettering any performance on the world stage they managed with Ibrahimovic in their side.
The former Manchester United, Barcelona, PSG and Inter Milan striker – to name a few of the clubs he’s played for – is confident Sweden will win the World Cup once they beat England, just as he predicted.
“Yes, I think Sweden can become world champion, just like I said before the World Cup started. They beat Mexico, which was strong, and then they defeated Switzerland as well. So they have had success, as nobody thought they would use.
“It’s England on Saturday and we’re all there with our full support behind them. All Swedes in the world are proud of our national team and they will continue to be proud no matter how it goes.”
Ibrahimovic’s comments come after former Sweden international Hakan Mild said England players are “spoilt children.”
“It couldn’t be a better draw, they think they are so good, they are not,” said the 74-time capped Swede. “They are spoilt children who earn a lot of money. They don’t have the desperation needed.”
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