What’s a World Cup without Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Boring, not worth watching, not a World Cup at all, if you ask the larger than life Swedish striker.
The Swedish superstar, and probably the world’s most entertaining player on and off the field, lived up to his word and landed in Moscow on the day the FIFA World Cup kicked off. He was omnipresent in Moscow, waving at everyone from huge billboards, and when he stepped down from the Visa team bus – showcasing a painting of Zlatan alongside a fierce lion – he did put on a show, posing for cameras and doing several retakes so that the official team could get it right.
“Like I said four years ago, I say it again now – the World Cup without me is not worth watching! I really mean that,” said Zlatan, tongue firmly in cheek.
Sweden have qualified for this edition of the World Cup – knocking out former world champions Italy – but there is no place for their record goal-scorer who has won 33 major trophies in a career that has spanned nearly two decades. He is still an active footballer with Los Angeles Galaxy in the US but having retired after Euro 2016, Sweden have made it clear they are better off without him.
“I think Sweden, they have less pressure when I’m not there, because when I’m there we’re supposed to win everything. Just enjoy. No pressure, because I’m not there,” said Zlatan.
Sweden are playing in a major tournament without Zlatan for the first time since 2000. They are in Group F with world champions Germany, Mexico and South Korea. Zlatan is unlikely to even make an appearance at the stadium when they face South Korea in the opener in Nizhny Novgorod on Monday.