Zlatan Ibrahimovic Will Not Play for Sweden at 2018 World Cup

Alex Keble@alexkebleFeatured ColumnistApril 26, 2018

Los Angeles Galaxy's Zlatan Ibrahimovic, of Sweden, celebrates his goal during the second half of an MLS soccer match against the Los Angeles FC Saturday, March 31, 2018, in Carson, Calif. The Galaxy won 4-3. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Los Angeles Galaxy striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not come out of international retirement to play for Sweden at the 2018 World Cup, per an official press release that was confirmed by Sky Sports on Twitter:

"I spoke to Zlatan on Tuesday. He said he has not changed his decision regarding playing in the national team. It is still a no," said head of the Swedish Football Federation Lars Richt, per Ben Snowball for Eurosport.

Ibrahimovic's final decision had been hanging over the Swedish camp for some time, and the striker recently appeared to hint that he would be playing this summer.

He said on Jimmy Kimmel Live that "I'm going to the World Cup," and that "a World Cup without me wouldn't be a World Cup," per ESPN FC, but that would appear to have been a red herring.

It looks as though the player has decided against participating, rather than having been rejected. The press release mentions Richt talking with Ibrahimovic, which does not conform to the expected course of action regarding the 36-year-old's international future. 

"He can do it," Sweden head coach Janne Andersson said, responding to the player's interview with Jimmy Kimmel, per Kicker (h/t Matt Reed for NBC). "If you want to be part of it, you must call me. Easy as that."

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

Instead, Ibrahimovic will be staying in Los Angeles during their brief nine-day break in the summer. The MLS will not run between June 14 and June 22, with L.A. Galaxy returning to action against San Jose Earthquakes on June 30.

Sweden went through the entire World Cup qualifying campaign without Zlatan, albeit via a play-off victory against Italy. Andersson has built a hard-working and exciting young side, but Sweden do lack a strong centre-forward. 

Marcus Berg is not the player he was, and he is surely not up to international standard now that he plays in the UAE, which explains why Sweden have only scored three goals in five matches since booking their place at the 2018 World Cup.

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, has had a mixed start in L.A. He scored twice against rivals Los Angeles FC on his debut to help turn a 3-1 deficit into a 4-3 victory, but since then, he has scored once in three matches. 

Perhaps reflecting on his fitness during his brief spell with L.A. Galaxy has led to Ibrahimovic's final decision, but either way, it seems unlikely he won't be in Russia in some capacity.  

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