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Larsson: Sweden can thrive out of the Ibra spotlight


By Alex Williams

Henrik Larsson is hoping Sweden will go into the World Cup under the radar given Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be involved.

Ibrahimovic retired from international football after Euro 2016, but Sweden's record goalscorer appeared to be tempted to return after qualification for Russia had been achieved.

Now at LA Galaxy, the 36-year-old will not add to his 116 international appearances after speculation over a sensational recall failed to materialise.

Larsson, another talismanic former Sweden international, believes Ibrahimovic's absence could help the Swedes provide a few shocks when their Group F fixtures start with a clash against South Korea on Monday.

Asked if not having the former Manchester United forward in the squad alleviates pressure, Larsson said: "I hope now there are a few teams who underestimate Sweden.

"The South Korea game is not going to be easy, and it is important they do not lose because they have a tough game against Germany after that. Then I think it is going to be decided in the Mexico game.

"He is the best player we ever had from Sweden so it is not strange that those questions (about a recall) came up. But I think it is good now for the group that they can focus on the team and the squad.

"You guys are still talking about him even though he is not there.

"A fit Zlatan, the way he was before his injury (at the end of the 2016/17 season), I think any coach in the world would bring him. But he is not that. There is no point talking about that. It is about the players who are there."

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