“The World Cup without me is not worth watching”, Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said on Thursday (June 14) just hours ahead of the tournament’s opening ceremonies in Moscow.
Ibrahimovic was jokingly repeating what he said in 2013 after Sweden were beaten by Portugal in the play-offs for the 2014 finals in Brazil.
Although Sweden did manage to qualify this time, the 36-year-old, who scored 62 goals in 116 games for Sweden, was not included in the squad, but rather working on a different pitch – promoting Visa cardless payment systems.
At a media event in the Russian capital, Ibrahimovic bristled at questions of whether Sweden was better off without him on the world stage but had kind words for competitors Germany and Brazil.
“I think Sweden, they have less pressure when I’m not there, because when I’m there we’re supposed to win everything,” he said.
“Germany is the Deutsche-machine. You know they will do good, and they always do good. And I always say a good team doesn’t have 11 players, they have 22 fantastic players. And with Germany, it’s not like you have a star; I think the team is the star, and that’s why they’re so strong,” he said.
Ibrahimovic said he thought Brazil “will do something out of the limits”, as they look to rebound from their nightmare 7-1 thrashing by Germany in the 2014 semi-final in their own country.
Sweden open their World Cup Group F campaign against South Korea on June 18 before going on to meet Germany and Mexico.