Malmö native Ibrahimovic finished top scorer in Italy’s Serie A with 25 goals and won the championship with Inter Milan. Despite not scoring in the first four games of Sweden’s World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign, he is inevitably being billed as the key player in the clash on Sweden’s national day.
“Obviously he’s an important player for us. Zlatan can do unique things on the field,” said Sweden coach Lars Lagerbäck at a press conference on Thursday. “But we need the rest of the team to play well too. We can’t rely on one player.”
Sweden’s experienced defender Olof Mellberg said of Ibrahimovic that “obviously he’s an important player going forward for us and hopefully he gets a goal or two.”
Juventus defender Mellberg added that Sweden need to start winning games if they are to qualify for next year’s World Cup in South Africa.
Denmark head coach Morten Olsen trained Ibrahimovic at Ajax and is well aware of the threat he poses.
“He’s a world class player but we mustn’t only worry about him, Sweden have lots of good players,” Olsen said. “We play a collective game not man to man.”
Denmark and Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner acknowledged that Ibrahimovic is one of the world’s best players and Denmark will have to concentrate throughout the 90 minutes to contain him.
The fitness of Denmark’s classy defender, Daniel Agger could influence the result. The Liverpool defender has a back injury and didn’t train on Thursday night. It’s not yet known whether he will play on Saturday.
Sweden are currently in fourth place in qualifying Group 1, seven points behind table toppers Denmark. The game between the Scandinavian neighbours kicks off at the Råsunda Stadium in Solna at 8pm.
Ibrahimovic is likely to be partnered in attack by veteran striker Henrik Larsson. The Helsingborg player looked sharp in training on Thursday and will be seeking to add to his 37 international goals. Both teammates and opposition have a lot of respect for Larsson.
“Henrik looks sharp, he always does,” said Mellberg. “He has the physique of a 20-year-old.”
Denmark coach Olsen said, “He (Larsson) is quality, he showed that by playing for Barcelona at 35-36 years old.”