Ibrahimovic too big a force for Sweden, Ekdal says
STOCKHOLM – Former Sweden footballer Zlatan Ibrahimovic's intense will to win was not always beneficial for other players on the national side, midfielder Albin Ekdal said on Saturday.
"His gesturing and sharp comments lowered some players' self-confidence," Ekdal said when reflecting on the disappointing Euro 2016 tournament, when Sweden went out in the group stage.
Euro 2016 was the last time Ibrahimovic played for Sweden before international retirement, and Ekdal's first tournament with the national side.
"Our team consisted of a world star and 10 decent players who were to help him dominate. That tactic did not work," Ekdal said of the gameplan that then coach Erik Hamren devised.
"Everyone agreed that Zlatan should have the ball as much as possible, that's reasonable when you have a player of that calibre," Ekdal said.
"But relying on a single player and thus subconsciously slipping away from one's own responsibility doesn't work in football or any other team sport. Nobody reached their level or maximum capacity.
"Afterwards I have thought: Maybe it was the case that many in the national team were not able to handle Zlatan's demands," he added.
Ekdal, 30, who plays for Serie A club Sampdoria, was speaking on Summer, a popular annual radio programme, where people in the news are invited to fill the airwaves with their own contributions and music.
Sweden – currently managed by Janne Andersson - are now a different side after Ibrahimovic's departure, Ekdal said. He noted that at the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia, Sweden were "a tightly knit gang, full of harmony and self-confidence" as they reached the last eight.
Ibrahimovic, 38, scored 62 goals in 116 caps. He currently plays for AC Milan.