Is this Zlatan Ibrahimovic's last chance to star on the international stage? Previewing the Euro 2016 qualifying playoffs
LONDON (AP) — For Zlatan Ibrahimovic to probably make his international swansong at Euro 2016, he must continue his ferocious form in front of goal for Sweden in its playoff against Denmark.
Ibrahimovic was the fourth highest scorer in qualifying with eight strikes, but a third-place finish in Group G behind Russia and Austria means Sweden's only route to the championship is to defeat Denmark over two legs, starting on Saturday.
At the age of 34, he's not expected to play internationally beyond Euro 2016 in France. He missed the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after Sweden lost its playoff against Portugal.
If Ibrahimovic can pull it off, he will end the tenure of Denmark coach Morten Olsen, who has said he will step down when his team's campaign for Euro 2016 ends.
In the other playoffs, Ireland meets Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary takes on Norway, and Ukraine welcomes Slovenia.
Here's some things to know about the playoffs:
Denmark coach confident
Olsen, who has played more than 100 times for Denmark, has been the national coach since 2000, and while he's said this is his last run, he's not preparing to say goodbye yet.
He's hoping Denmark will have the advantage after Saturday's match to take back home to Sweden.
"It pleases me that we get the opportunity to decide it all at home," he said. "Deciding it all in front of your own crowd is always something special."
Denmark won the European Championship in 1992, and is the only previous winner competing in the playoffs.
Ireland wary of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Ireland coach Martin O'Neill has singled out midfielder Miralem Pjanic and striker Edin Dzeko, who both play for Italian side Roma, as the danger men for his team ahead of the first leg against Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday.
Defender Seamus Coleman merely hopes they can fulfil their supporters' expectations.
"We are all excited with what could happen at the end of it but we have got a big job to get done," Coleman said. "I feel that pressure to do as best as I can for the fans."
Ireland is bidding to reach its second straight European Championship, and do better than Euro 2012, where they lost all three group matches against Spain, Italy and Croatia.
Bosnia is hoping to make history by qualifying for the first time: "It is good that we are in a situation where we are masters of our destiny," Bosnia coach Mehmed Bazdarevic said.
Hungary wants a home advantage
Hungary hasn't qualified for the European Championship since 1972, while Norway has not made it since 2000.
Their first leg is in Oslo on Thursday, when Hungary will try to beat Norway for the first time since 1981. Norway can't be overconfident; it has lost all six home games it has played in November in the last 20 years.
"Our aim in the away game is to create the foundations so that three days later, at home, we can achieve the right to take part in the European Championship," Hungary coach Bernd Storck said.
The playoff is a huge disappointment for Hungary, which had hope of being the best third-place team as late as the last rotation in the group stage.
Bad omens for Ukraine
For Ukraine to reach Euro 2016, it will have to do two things for the first time.
It has never beaten its opponent Slovenia in four attempts, losing two and drawing two, while its last five playoff encounters have all ended in defeat.
The first match will be hosted by Ukraine on Saturday, something which coach Mikhail Fomenko did not want.
"Of course, it would be better to start away, but we cannot change anything with the draw," Fomenko said.
Slovenia has been in the playoffs for the European Championship twice, defeating Ukraine in 2000, and losing to Croatia in 2004.