EURO 2020: Sweden returns to life without Ibrahimovic
Well, it was fun while it lasted.
Sweden was just starting to dream a little bigger ahead of the European Championship with its greatest ever player back in the squad after Zlatan Ibrahimovic ended his five-year international retirement in March.
All that optimism has been punctured, though, after the 39-year-old Ibrahimovic ruled himself out of the tournament last month because of a knee injury.
So, Sweden is back to square one after a frenzied two months of Zlatan-mania.
And maybe that's not a bad thing.
For arguably the most brash, self-confident soccer player around — he marked coming out of international retirement by writing on Twitter: “The return of the God'' — there did appear to be a change in his attitude.
Would Euro 2020 have been a different story, though, when the eyes of the sporting world were on him once more? His teammates — many of whom regard Ibrahimovic as their sporting icon and grew up wanting to be him — would have expected more. The country would have expected more. The casual soccer fan would have expected more.
After all, Andersson led Sweden to the World Cup quarterfinals in 2018 without the country's record scorer. During the 4½ years Ibrahimovic was away, Sweden established a new identity and better team ethic. Play no longer went through one individual.
Of course, Ibrahimovic is still among the world's standout strikers, as he has showed with AC Milan in Serie A this season. He is from that rare breed of players who can create something out of nothing.
Sweden quickly needs to move on. Who knows, Ibrahimovic's absence may yet prove a blessing in disguise.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)