Ukraine, Jun17: Zlatan Ibrahimovic has pledged to continue his international career with Sweden, already looking ahead to the 2014 World Cup after an early exit at the European Championship.
Sweden was eliminated from Euro 2012 after losing to Ukraine and England in its first two group games, leading some to wonder whether the 30-year-old Ibrahimovic, who has taken breaks from international duty in the past, would return to the team when World Cup qualifying starts.
But “Ibra” said he has no plans on quitting just yet.
“I'll continue with the national team, absolutely,” he said at a news conference. “I'm still motivated and I want a lot more. This doesn't mean anything in my mind. It just makes me more motivated.”
At a news conference Sunday, the AC Milan forward said “I'll continue with the national team, absolutely,” adding that “I'm still motivated and I want a lot more.”
Despite transfer rumors, Ibrahimovic said he expects to stay in Milan for the remaining two years of his contract.
“I want to get better than I am, and I want to continue to develop,” he said.
Ibrahimovic was seen as the key for Sweden to make a run at the Euros, but few have blamed him for the team's failure, as defensive mistakes were largely at fault for a 2-1 loss to Ukraine and 3-2 defeat against England. Ibrahimovic gave Sweden the lead against the Ukrainians, but was held scoreless for the first time in five internationals against England.
“Physically and mentally I've felt really good,” Ibrahimovic said. “But what good is that when you don't win? I'd rather win and not play well than to play well and not win.”
Ibrahimovic also stuck up for coach Erik Hamren, whose tactics in his first major tournament have been questioned. Hamren has tried to transform the Swedish team from a traditional defensive setup to a free-flowing and possession-based attacking team.
That's the way Ibrahimovic wants to play as well, and he said it was important to give Hamren time to develop his ideas.
“The way we're playing now, we've never played better,” he said. “We've traditionally been known for our defense and not our attack. Now it's the other way around.”
Sweden still has a game against France on Tuesday, when Ibrahimovic said the team will be “playing for our honor.”
After that, Ibrahimovic said he'll go on vacation before starting to focus on next season.
And when World Cup qualifying does start, he said the key for Sweden will be to cut out the mistakes that led to the losses here.
“We took the lead in both games and then we lost after some mistakes,” he said. “We've conceded five goals in two games, that's never happened before. We have to keep developing.”