NICE: Sweden’s superstar striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic announced on Tuesday he will retire from international football after Euro 2016.
“The last game with Sweden in the Euro will be my last game with Sweden. So I hope it won’t be tomorrow,” Ibrahimovic, 34, told a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s final Group E game against Belgium in Nice.
He ruled out any chance of playing at the Rio Olympics in August.
Sweden’s coach Erik Hamren said “this will be a big loss. He is unique.
“In my eyes we have a world-class player in Sweden. Zlatan is just like (Lionel) Messi and (Cristiano) Ronaldo,” added Hamren.
Sweden’s record goalscorer with 62 goals, Ibrahimovic is looking to become the first player to score in four European Championship finals.
Sweden must beat Belgium to stand a chance of advancing to the last 16.
“I will not participate in the Olympics because my last game will be the last game Sweden does in this Euro. So let’s hope it goes as long as possible,” he said.
Ibrahimovic, a record 10-time winner of the national Guldbollen award for player of the year, said he would go out with his head held high regardless of Wednesday’s result.
“To finish in a disappointment, never. Because I’m very proud to be the captain of Sweden and of what I’ve achieved.
“I want to take this moment and thank all the supporters because they made it possible for me to achieve what I have achieved. Without them it would not have been possible.
“So wherever I go, wherever I come, I’ll always bring the Swedish flag with me and stand with it. So for me disappointment doesn’t exist, only proudness, and grateful. I’m very thankful. So thank you.”
Ibrahimovic is leaving Paris Saint-Germain after four seasons, but is yet to commit to a new club, although Manchester United are rumoured to be favourites to seal his signing.
The Swede has almost guaranteed success wherever he he played with league titles in the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France. However, the Champions League has proved frustratingly out of reach.
Ibrahimovic made his international debut against the Faroe Islands in January 2001, but he has been unable to fire Sweden beyond the quarter-finals of a major tournament.
The striker missed a penalty in a shootout defeat to the Dutch at Euro 2004 with subsequent appearances at the European Championship ending in the group stage.
‘Ibra’ has featured at just one World Cup, in 2006, and famously said the 2014 showpiece in Brazil would “not be worth watching” after Sweden lost to Portugal in a two-legged play-off.-AFP