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Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic

FIFA World Cup preview: Sweden

There will be plenty of bitter Italians hoping Sweden crash and burn at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Because it was the Swedes who sensationally knocked Italy out in the qualifying stages and ensured the Azzurri will miss the finals for the first time since 1958.

It heralds a welcome return to the World Cup for Swedish supporters, their first appearance since 2006. It is a vastly inexperienced squad, with only nine players boasting over 30 international caps.

But there could be a huge strike weapon coming their way, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic rumoured to be contemplating coming out of retirement to assist.

He retired after Euro 2016, but has been dropping plenty of hints on social media that a World Cup swansong might not be totally out of the question.

The draw for Sweden

June 18 v South Korea

June 24 v Germany

June 28 v Mexico

The star players - including Zlatan Ibrahimovic

With such an inexperienced squad, Sweden will likely lean heavily on the leadership and ability of Emil Forsberg.

The Bundesliga side RB Leipzig winger has 34 international caps and has scored six goals. He was also the man who inherited the mantle of Sweden's most important player following the retirement of Ibrahimovic.

The plot becomes complicated with the rumoured return of Ibrahimovic. Who would he replace in the squad? Where would he play? Would Sweden even accept him back after doing all the hard work without him?

There are plenty of interesting pages left in this story.

What needs to go right

It is an interesting draw for Sweden, and escaping the group stage is not beyond them.

They open the tournament with a match that is simply must-win against South Korea, who have been in dreadful form and only qualified for the finals by the skin of their teeth.

Locking up a win here would give the Swedes a big chance of escaping the group with a win or draw against Mexico in the final pool match. And after the way Sweden strangled Italy with their defence, a smashing at the hands of Germany might not happen.

About the Author Josh Alston

Josh Alston is a hack with over 12 years industry experience, covering sport across all codes for newspapers and online agencies. Known to frequent grade matches because of their cheap tinnies. Eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism and a Masters in sitting on the hill when the local cricket side was playing. Softball premiership winner, rugby league legend in Year 10 and no stranger to Doomben Racecourse.

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