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He was Zlatan: A Look at Ibrahimovic’s Sad Euro Exit

June 30, 2016

- Grant Whittington

As the dust settles on the Euro 2016 Group Stage, we must also reflect on the exit of a true footballing icon. Zlatan Ibrahimovic confirmed his retirement ahead of Sweden’s limp exit from Group E, where a 1-0 defeat to Belgium finally consigned the Swedish to an early flight home.

For a man who has scored more than 400 career goals (including 62 in 116 appearances at international level) and won just short of 30 major honours, however, Zlatan’s final bow at a major tournament was extremely disappointing. For a man of such confidence and ability, his lacklustre displays in France will have come as a major surprise.

Zlatan and Sweden: The Numbers behind a Sorry Tournament

The Swedes earned just one point at the Euros, with narrow defeats to Italy and Belgium following a 1-1 draw with Ireland in the opening game. In truth, this game was the only one that saw Ibrahimovic make any sort of telling contribution in France, with his cross from the left-hand channel assisting Ciaran Clark’s own-goal and earning Sweden the draw.

Beyond this, Sweden’s and Ibrahimovic’s Euro statistics make for grim viewing. Zlatan had just 56 touches of the ball in the decisive game against Belgium, for example, where a win may have sent the Swedes through to the knockout stages. Just eight of these were in the opposition penalty area, but none resulted in Zlatan being able to influence the game. In the tournament as a whole, Sweden had just four shots on target across their three group games, with Ibrahimovic responsible for just one.

Will this Taint Zlatan’s reputation on the Biggest stage?

The fact that this was Zlatan’s last international tournament makes his performances all the more poignant, but to many it confirms the belief that Ibrahimovic has always fallen short of the top bracket in world football. Despite this incredible for gift for self-promotion, impressive title haul and prolific goal record, Zlatan has failed in his final opportunity to convince the doubters that he can have a major say at the very highest level.

This is a harsh assessment of a man who has brought so much colour and personality to the game, however, and while his elite-level achievements may fall short of his vast ego we would undoubtedly view them in a different light if he had a more humble outlook. Zlatan’s club career is also likely to continue at Manchester United, giving him another chance to perform and potentially reinvigorate a fallen giant of the English game.

One thing is for sure; world football will miss Zlatan more than he misses it in the future.

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