Spain emerged 1-0 winners in that clash on Monday, which means Sweden will have to negotiate the playoffs for a place in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. There was an incident in the game where Ibrahimovic barged into Azpilicueta during a set-piece, and was subsequently booked.
The booking means Ibrahimovic will be suspended for the next game, but the Swede admitted he would do it again to defend his teammates.
"The other day in the national team, I gave a tackle to (Spain’s Azpilicueta). I did it on purpose. I’m not ashamed to say it because he did something stupid to my player. Acting big to my player."
"It was a stupid thing, but I would still do it to make him understand: ‘You don’t f*cking do that! You don’t have balls to do it against me. But I will show you what happens if you do it to me.’ That’s why I did it,” Ibrahimovic told The Guardian.
Ibrahimovic added that his teammates were too 'nice' to react the way he did. The 40-year-old admitted it was not the correct thing to do. But he would have no qualms to do that again to stand up to a teammate. Ibrahimovic added:
“What can he say? He will not say it to me, but he will say it to my player – who will do nothing because he’s too nice. It was not a good thing by me, but I would still do it. That’s me. I’m not ashamed to say it."
Azpilicueta apparently said something to a Swedish player down on the ground, which irked Ibrahimovic. Acknowledging that his actions could cost Sweden a place at the World Cup, the unapologetic Swede wanted to teach Azpilicueta a lesson. He said:
“It’s not about missing the playoffs. It’s about making the guy understand you don’t take the piss out of somebody laying (on the ground). You don’t attack a dog that doesn’t talk. Attack the one able to do something. It’s too easy to pick on my teammates who are 20 years old and very nice guys. I hope he understands now.”
Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a big miss for Sweden
Sweden's opponents for the playoffs have not been decided yet. But regardless of who they end up facing, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be a big miss. The Swede, last weekend, became the oldest player in history to score a Serie A brace.
The 40-year old never backs away from a challenge. But his decision to barge into Azpilicueta could eventually cost his side a place in the World Cup. Sweden will need all the attacking quality they can muster in the absence of Ibrahimovic in the first playoff game.
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The Scandinavian nation will hope they remain alive in the tie going into the second leg, where Zlatan Ibrahimovic is expected to make his return.