He terrorised opposition defences in Serie ‘A’ for seven seasons but Zlatan Ibrahimovic will face stiff resistance to his efforts to rescue Sweden’s Euro 2016 campaign against Italy on Friday. After a frustrating 1-1 draw with Republic of Ireland in which Ibrahimovic failed to sparkle despite playing a decisive role in Ciaran Clark’s late own goal, the Swedes are under pressure ahead of Friday’s Group ‘E’ clash in Toulouse.
A defeat would leave the Scandinavians needing to beat Belgium, ranked number two in the world, in their last group game and hope they get among the four best third-placed group finishers to sneak into the last 16. Sweden coach Erik Hamren is already dubious. Sweden will really need the talents of Ibrahimovic, their talisman for many seasons. One of the most feared strikers in the world, Ibrahimovic’s ability to produce moments of goalscoring magic have delighted fans for the past decade.
He hit 11 goals for Sweden in their qualifying campaign, only two shy of German Robert Lewandowski, and with the pressure now on the towering striker Italy coach Antonio Conte has sounded a warning. “He’s become even stronger over the past few years, and he’s still progressing. He’s a very strong player who can destabilise a whole team.”
Czechs seek a win over ‘little Spain’:
In Saint-Étienne, Czech Republic take on Croatia on with their coach Pavel Vrba targeting a Group ‘D’ win over ‘little Spain’ to help their bid to stay at Euro 2016. “With their stars playing at Real and Barcelona, they can be nicknamed ‘little Spain’. We know another tough game is in front of us,” said the Czech boss. His side lost their opening European Championship finals game 1-0 to Spain in Toulouse last Sunday. The nickname ‘Little Spain’ given to Croatia has been coined with Ivan Rakitic at Barcelona, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic at Real Madrid, while forward Duje Cop is at Sevilla.