Belfast Telegraph

Belgians warned to be on guard for danger man Zlatan Ibrahimovic

By Damien Spellman

Belgium coach Marc Wilmots has warned his players to beware Zlatan Ibrahimovic as they attempt to book their place in the last 16 of the Euro 2016 finals.

The Belgians face Sweden in their final Group E game in Nice on Wednesday night knowing a point will be enough to ensure their passage even if the Republic of Ireland pull off a shock victory against leaders Italy.

However, Wilmots, whose side beat Ireland 3-0 in Bordeaux on Saturday to erase their disappointment at losing 2-0 to the Italians in their opening fixture, knows Ibrahimovic - who has made little impact at Euro 2016 so far - could still have a major say in their fate.

Asked about the Sweden game, he said: "They have got a great player up front, Zlatan - he can score from a deflection, from a free-kick, from anything and I respect Zlatan very much."

The Belgian camp had been engulfed by negativity after the team ranked second in the world by FIFA succumbed tamely to Italy, with both Wilmots and some of his players coming in for stern criticism.

He had hinted he might drop the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne for the clash with Ireland, although later admitted he had been bluffing after seeing the Everton striker score twice and the Manchester City midfielder turn in a fine individual display.

Lukaku's goals both came at the end of rapid counter-attacking moves, although Wilmots denied suggestions his team has become one which looks only to hit the opposition on the break.

He said: "I don't think we are a counter-attacking team. I think we are a team which can play the necessary style.

"When we played against Italy, we pushed between the 70th minute and the 90th minute, so we play how we need to play. The problem is that you can sometimes leave space when you do that. When we were winning 1-0, we know we have got some very good weapons. We were not going to play defensively against them, otherwise you would be sacking me all over again."

Belfast Telegraph