Zlatan leads Sweden to Euro 2016
"He is like family, and I love him," Coach Erik Hamrén summed up the feelings of many Swedes after Zlatan Ibrahimović's two-goal star performance in Copenhagen sent Sweden through to Euro 2016 at the expense of Denmark.
In Tuesday night's second-leg play-off at Parken, the 34-year-old star striker gave Sweden a first half lead which cancelled out Denmark's away goal in the first-leg play-off at Friends arena. His second, a glorious free-kick with 15 minutes remaining, put Sweden 4-1 ahead on aggregate and sealed the fate of the Danes, whose two late goals staved off defeat on the night, but were of little consolation.
A lot of talk was made before the play-offs about how Sweden's captain had never scored against Denmark and was perhaps playing in his final match for his country. But his penalty in the 2-1 win in Stockholm, coupled with his brace in the second leg, meant that Ibrahimović had scored three times against Denmark and 11 times in overall qualification for Euro 2016.
"I can't describe it, it wasn't over until the final whistle. Then we knew that we were in the championship. It was magical," Ibrahimovic told Swedish Radio's sports department.
"I'm very pleased, because before the two play-off games, people talked about the fact that we were not able to beat Denmark and all these kinds of things, but we made it," he said. "We are very happy, very satisfied. We did fantastic in both matches. The Danes had a lot of possession, but we were more efficient."
The Paris Saint-Germain striker said that he cannot wait for the finals in France.
"It's going to be magic, big magic," he said. "It means everything. I play in France and I am coming with my national team to play the European Championship."
Qualification for the European Championships also relieved the coach Erik Hamrén, who had more reasons than most to thank his captain.
"It was fantastic to watch Zlatan put the free-kick into the back of the net. What can you say?" he said about his captain. "He is like family, and I love him."
"I really don't know what to say. This is fantastic. This is euphoria. We wanted to go to EURO 2016 and we managed to do it. The players really did well today, but we were also lucky. If Denmark had scored early on it would have been another match. I am thinking of the chance where Denmark hit the woodwork following a corner. There we were lucky. But I believe we were the better team when you look at the two matches combined," Sweden's coach told UEFA.com.
The match was also a bit of sweet revenge for Sweden who lost to Denmark and were eliminated from the 2010 World Cup play-offs six years ago.