Zlatan Ibrahimovic to retire from Sweden after Euro 2016
NICE, France (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Tuesday that he will retire from international football after the European Championship.
The 34-year-old striker said ahead of Sweden's final Group E game on Wednesday against Belgium that it would be his last for his country if the team gets eliminated.
"The last game for Sweden in Euro will be my last game with Sweden, so I hope it will not be tomorrow," he said. "Let's hope it goes as long as possible."
Even if Sweden loses and fails to qualify for the knockout stages, Ibrahimovic said he would not be disappointed with such an end to his international career.
"To finish on a disappointment, never, because I'm very proud to be captain of Sweden and what I achieved. So I want to take this moment and thank all the supporters, because they make it possible for me to achieve what I have achieved," he said. "For me disappointment doesn't exist, only proudness and grateful and very thankful."
He added that he "will not participate in the Olympics" in Rio de Janeiro. He had been named in a provisional Swedish squad.
Ibrahimovic is Sweden's record scorer with 62 goals and can become its joint sixth most-capped player with 116 appearances on Wednesday. Sweden, which has yet to score in the tournament, is likely to need a win against Belgium to qualify for the last 16 after an opening draw with Ireland and a defeat to Italy.
Looking ahead to the match, Ibrahimovic said: "We need to play a bit more as a team, need to be better."
Sweden coach Erik Hamren highlighted Ibrahimovic's contribution to the team and to Swedish soccer in general.
"Our greatest star going is a big loss," Hamren said. "We have one international player that's really at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and that's Zlatan Ibrahimovic."
Hamren added that Ibrahimovic had discussed retirement with him in "January or February" but that Ibrahimovic only confirmed it Tuesday.
"I think Sweden do have a bright future in football, but of course if we lose Zlatan Ibrahimovic that will be a huge loss," Hamren said. "As a goal scorer of course but also as an individual he has really helped Swedish football."