Zlatan Ibrahimovic is not thinking about retiring from professional football despite needing a physio to watch his every step.

Since returning to Milan in January 2020, Ibrahimovic has scored 30 goals and supplied nine assists in 54 games in all competitions. 

However, the striker has struggled with injuries and featured in only half of the Rossoneri's Serie A games in 2020-21, while he was forced to pull out of Euro 2020 duty with Sweden. 

Still, he became the fourth-oldest scorer in Serie A history this season when he struck against Bologna last month and took his domestic league tally to 400 versus Roma a week later.

Ibrahimovic acknowledged he has had to learn to listen to his body more and seek treatment as quickly as he can, though it has not made him think about hanging up his boots. 

"Last season I had more injuries than I usually have and have had before. But it's because I didn't think about taking it easy when I felt something, I just powered on. I have that mentality. I give 200 per cent," said Ibrahimovic. 

"After I turned 30, I noticed the pain does not go away, it just moves within the body. 

"What I have changed is that now I have a physio that follows me everywhere in Italy 24 hours a day. At the very least, he is right there poking. 

"That's the only change I made. As soon as I feel something, I want to take care of it immediately." 

He added: "We always want to play, but I have to find the right balance considering the injuries I've had. 

"You learn something new every day. I get to know by body better with every day that passes. But as my body ages, my head becomes younger and I look more handsome. 

"I haven't set a date to quit. I want to continue as long as possible and not think about when it will end. I don't want to be sad, like someone who quits thinking he could've played again." 

Ibrahimovic retired from international duty after Euro 2016 but has since returned to the fold, making his comeback for Sweden in March. 

An Achilles injury forced him to withdraw from the squad in the previous international break, but Sweden boss Janne Andersson has been impressed by his recovery. 

If Sweden beat Georgia on Thursday, they will go into their final World Cup qualifier against Spain three days later knowing a point will be enough for them to top Group B and book their place in Qatar – assuming La Roja beat Greece beforehand.

Andersson refused to confirm whether Ibrahimovic was ready to play in both games, though. 

"If we're talking about Zlatan and his physique, he has looked surprisingly good. Last night [the Milan derby] I think he looked fit – the matches before that too," said Andersson. 

"A few weeks ago he looked a bit rusty but he has looked great since, so we will see how much I will play him." 

Andriy Shevchenko hailed his heroic Ukraine players following their dramatic 2-1 extra-time win over Sweden as he prepares to turn his focus to a Euro 2020 quarter-final showdown against England.

Ukraine progressed to the European Championship last eight for the first time thanks to Artem Dovbyk's last-gasp winner in extra time after Oleksandr Zinchenko had seen his opener cancelled out by Emil Forsberg on Tuesday.

Shevchenko's Ukraine will face England, who beat Germany 2-0 at Wembley earlier in the day, in Rome on Saturday after Dovbyk headed home at the end of 120 minutes.

Ukraine's only previous appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition came at the 2006 World Cup when eliminating Switzerland before losing to Italy in the last eight.

"I thank my team for all their efforts, for the heroism they have shown," head coach Shevchenko told a post-match media conference.

"Both teams played very well. It was an interesting match. Neither side wanted to lose so we got this drama at the end. 

"With this performance and commitment, our team has deserved the love of the whole country."

 

Shevchenko's side are still to keep a clean sheet at a European Championship, conceding at least once in each of their 10 games, but he felt his side's tactics were spot on against Sweden.

He added: "We knew how our team should play from the first minutes. We knew who could strengthen us [during the game]. The plan we had developed has worked well.

"We decided to protect the wide areas more. We asked our midfielders to work harder and changed Andriy Yarmolenko's position. We tried to control the game but it wasn't that way from time to time. But the team has fully fulfilled our plan."

Ukraine defender Zinchenko felt the victory answered some of the negativity which had come their way after an underwhelming group stage, which saw them only beat North Macedonia.

"It was hard for me to concentrate on this game because we had so much criticism for our three group games," he said.

"I felt I could give the team more. I'm very proud that we showed our country and the whole of Europe that we can achieve our goals.

"It's a historical achievement. My advice to everyone – let's celebrate, we only live once and we may never repeat these moments again."

Sweden counterpart Janne Andersson felt his team deserved credit despite exiting the tournament.

Marcus Danielson was sent off in extra time and Ukraine made the extra man count when Zinchenko's cross was headed in from close range by substitute Dovbyk at Hampden Park.

"We'll have to fly home and go our separate ways. Suddenly it all ends, this great thing we've been building together," he said.

"We've come close to achieving something really good. We leave this with flying colours, as Sweden hadn't passed a group stage since 2004."

Andriy Shevchenko insists Ukraine have "nothing to lose" against Sweden as his side aim to reach the European Championship quarter-finals for the first time.

Ukraine's only previous appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition came at the 2006 World Cup when eliminating Switzerland before losing to Italy in the last eight.

The Eastern European nation hardly boast the best of records at the Euros, either, having lost seven of their last eight games.

However, a 2-1 win over North Macedonia, bookended by defeats to the Netherlands and Austria, proved enough for Ukraine to progress as one of the best third-placed sides.

Sweden await at Hampden Park on Tuesday and head coach Shevchenko believes his players can be proud whatever the result in Glasgow.

"We have travelled a long way to be here. We have achieved the result we wanted and have nothing to lose now," he said. "Everything else will be a big bonus for us.

"I think we played a good group stage. We played well against the Dutch and we put in a good performance against North Macedonia. Austria were very strong opponents. 

"But Sweden are well prepared tactically and have good individual players."

Sweden topped a group containing Spain, Poland and Slovakia to reach the knockouts of the Euros for a third time, having made it to the 1992 semi-finals and quarter-finals in 2004.

Despite coming through a difficult group with seven points from nine, Sweden boss Janne Andersson is taking nothing for granted against Ukraine.

"They are a good team; they know how to switch from defence to attack," he said. "They looked worn out against Austria, but like us they've had some rest – even more actually.

"After the last game I gathered the players and told them I wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world than in that room with them."

 


KEY PLAYERS

Sweden – Emil Forsberg 

The RB Leipzig man has been one of the star performers of Euro 2020 so far, scoring the only goal against Slovakia from the penalty spot before netting twice against Poland.

It has been quite the turnaround for the 29-year-old, who has now scored four goals in his last four games for Sweden, following a previous run of 11 games without a goal.

Forsberg could yet write his name in Swedish football folklore, with Kennet Andersson (five) and Martin Dahlin (four) the only players to score more than three goals for the country in a single major tournament, both doing so at the 1994 World Cup.

Ukraine – Andriy Yarmolenko

West Ham forward Yarmolenko scored twice and assisted another during the group stage, including a 25-yard goal of the tournament contender in the 3-2 loss to the Netherlands.

No Ukraine player has ever been involved in more goals than Yarmolenko at a major tournament, level with team-mate Roman Yaremchuk, who has also played a big part in his side's progression to the last 16.


KEY OPTA FACTS

– This will be the fifth meeting between Sweden and Ukraine, with Sweden's only victory coming in a friendly in August 2011 (D1 L2).

– The last meeting between Sweden and Ukraine was at Euro 2012, with Ukraine coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a brace from current manager Shevchenko.

– Of the teams to reach the last 16 at Euro 2020, no side faced more shots on target in the group stages than Ukraine (16, level with Wales).

– Sweden made the fewest successful passes (591) and had the lowest passing accuracy (69.9 per cent) of any side in the group stages at Euro 2020. Of the teams to reach the last 16, they also had the lowest average possession rate (29.6 per cent).

– Sweden scored with 44 per cent of their shots on target in the group stages of Euro 2020 (4/9), with only Portugal having a higher such ratio of teams to reach the last 16 (50 per cent - 7/14).

Janne Andersson hailed the new, 'calmer' Emil Forsberg after his goals fired Sweden into the knockout stages of Euro 2020.

The RB Leipzig midfielder scored twice as the Swedes saw off a late Poland fightback to claim a 3-2 victory that sent them through as Group E winners.

Four of Forsberg's 12 goals for his country have come in 2021, and his manager puts that down to a recent change in temperament.

Andersson told Euro2020.com: "He's a bit calmer as a person. He's said himself that he feels more harmonious, and he's been better on the pitch.

"He's always been good with the national team, and it's great he can be the decisive factor for us."

Sweden had not conceded a goal at Euro 2020 coming into Wednesday's game but were breached twice as a Robert Lewandowski-inspired Poland fought back.

However, while Andersson is keen to see his side quickly eliminate that porousness, he was pleased with their fluency going forward.

"I think opponents think we're difficult to play against, and that's how it should be," he added.

"Poland's first goal was a fantastic piece of individual skill. [Lewandowski is] a skilful player – probably the best striker in the world right now – and he scored twice.

"We're a little disappointed with that, but we scored three.

"In the second half, we defended a little too deep. We'll have to look at the game again, analyse it and see what we can do better.

"Overall, I can't say I'm unhappy – but there are things we can improve on."

Sweden now have six days to prepare for their last-16 tie against Ukraine - news that comes as music to Andersson's ears.

"It's always good to have more time to prepare," he continued.

"The most important thing is recovery, getting fluids on board and helping the body recover. On Saturday, we'll start to think about who the opponent is going to be and creating more energy for the game."

As for Poland, captain Lewandowski lamented poor fortune for his country's group-stage exit.

The Bayern Munich man hit the bar twice in quick succession in a goalless first half and felt that somewhat summed up their tournament.

"We have been unlucky at this tournament. We had many chances to score but did not convert enough of them,” he said.

"And our rivals sometimes had half a chance and they scored. Me too — those two headers hit the crossbar.

"We are sad and disappointed. Maybe we were lacking quality somehow, but we gave all we had."

Marek Hamsik remains bullish about Slovakia's hopes of reaching the Euro 2020 knockout stage ahead of their final group game away to Spain.

Slovakia lost 1-0 to Sweden on Friday in St Petersburg, leaving them on three points from two games after defeating Poland 2-1 in their opening fixture.

Spain, who drew 0-0 with Sweden on matchday one, face on Poland in Seville on Saturday, before their final group clash with Slovakia, which will determine group placings.

"It's still open. We have to recover well," Slovakia star Hamsik said after the Sweden defeat.

"Spain are the group favourites and also contenders to win the tournament. It will be very challenging."

Sweden scored the game's only goal in the 77th minute from an Emil Forsberg penalty, won after a foul from goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

The goal prevented Slovakia from taking a strong position in Group E, with Sweden moving into top spot on four points, ahead of Hamsik's side on three.

"It's a pity," Hamsik added. "If they hadn't scored from a penalty we would probably have got a draw, and it would have been a 'golden' point.

"We were a little more passive in the second half and we paid dearly for it."

Forsberg's penalty ended a run of 365 minutes without a goal for Sweden at the European Championship, marking their first since their opening game at Euro 2016 against the Republic of Ireland.

Sweden head coach Janne Andersson was delighted with his side's position after two games and praised Real Sociedad star Alexander Isak – who impressed and played a part in winning the decisive penalty with his pass for Robin Quaison.

"It's really good to see him on the pitch, he's a huge talent," Andersson said. "He's a young player who's still got a lot of room for improvement. I think there is a lot more to come from him. He played really well today."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not feature for Sweden at Euro 2020, head coach Janne Andersson has confirmed.

 

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