Zlatan Ibrahimovic starts for Sweden for the first time in FIVE YEARS as 39-year-old AC Milan striker makes emotional return to the side for 2022 World Cup qualifier against Georgia
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic was chosen to start for Sweden against Georgia on Thursday
- The 39-year-old striker retired from national team duty after the 2016 Euros
- He was brought back in this international break and made an emotional return
- Ibrahimovic partnered youngster Alexander Isak in attack for the first qualifier
Zlatan Ibrahimovic completed an emotional homecoming on Thursday night as he was handed his first appearance for Sweden in almost five years.
The 39-year-old striker was reduced to tears earlier this week when asked how his family feel about him returning to the national team.
Ibrahimovic, who had not featured for Sweden since declaring himself retired from international football following Euro 2016, partnered Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak in attack as boss Janne Andersson immediately called on his experience for the opening 2022 World Cup qualifier against Georgia.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic got his first appearance for Sweden since Euro 2016 on Thursday night
The strike pairing caught the eye as Ibrahimovic made his professional debut at Malmo two days before Alexander Isak was born in 1999.
Ibrahimovic is Sweden’s greatest ever player and he will be determined to show his return is more than a sentimental gesture.
The Milan striker will looking to build on his 62 goals in 116 caps against a Georgia side expected to struggle in this qualifying campaign.
Andersson and Ibrahimovic had been discussing a return since the beginning of the year, it was revealed in his press conference this week.
All eyes were on the 39-year-old striker (middle) in the warm-up ahead of facing Georgia
Ibrahimovic is Sweden’s most decorated footballer but will still want to add to his goals tally
Speaking about his meeting, Ibrahimovic said: ‘We met for the first time, alone in a room, and we spoke about everything.
‘It was a positive meeting where we confronted each other and, in the end, we chose what was best for Sweden. We both know what is best for the national team and today I’m sitting here in front of you.
‘If I’m here, it’s not because my name is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but because I deserve to be here. Everything I have done before means nothing. I feel fit, I want to be involved and I feel I can still contribute for the national team.
‘I’m just a piece of the puzzle. If you ask me, I’m the best in the world, but that doesn’t help here. I just want to put my experience at the disposal of the team and I promised the coach I will be decisive, but now I have to prove it on the pitch.’
Ibrahimovic was reduced to tears this week in a press conference ahead of his Sweden return
It was a strong line-up chosen by Andersson at the Friends Arena, just outside Stockholm, on Thursday with Sweden keen to set the tone for the rest of Group B.
As well as Georgia, Ibrahimovic and Co will have to navigate Spain, Greece and Kosovo.
They take on Kosovo in Pristina on March 28 before rounding out this international break with a friendly against Estonia.