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‘Like my first international’, says Ibrahimovic after win on Sweden return


Stockholm (AFP) – Zlatan Ibrahimovic said it felt like his Sweden debut as he set up the decisive goal in his first international appearance in nearly five years with Thursday’s 1-0 home win over Georgia in 2022 World Cup qualifying.

Ibrahimovic, 39, played his last Sweden game at Euro 2016 before wearing his country’s yellow shirt again for the 117th time in their Group B opener.

He fed Viktor Claesson in the first half to start the campaign with a victory in a group which also includes Spain, Greece and Kosovo, where they head this weekend.

“It felt good. It felt like it was my first international match. It was a lot of adrenaline,” Ibrahimovic told Sverige Radio.

“I think I could have done a lot more. But we won the match, and that is the most important thing,” he added.

Sweden’s record goalscorer made up a new-look strike partnership with 21-year-old Alexander Isak.

Former France defender Willy Sagnol took charge of the visitors for the first time and only four players kept their place from November’s draw with Estonia.

The home side dominated the opening half an hour in Stockholm and came close to breaking the deadlock after 25 minutes.

Winger Claesson found Isak in the box but the Real Sociedad attacker’s weak effort was parried away with ease by Giorgi Loria.

Ibrahimovic’s first half moment of magic came 10 minutes later.

He chested the ball in the box before playing a delicate touch to Claesson who volleyed home to make it 1-0 with his second international goal in as many games.

– Off after 84 minutes –

AC Milan star Ibrahimovic had a chance to add to his 62 goals for the national team six minutes from the interval but his limp shot dribbled past the post.

Georgia made an energetic start after the break but they failed to create a clear-cut chance.

Goalscorer Claesson was substituted for Leipzig forward Emil Forsberg with a quarter of an hour left to give Jan Andersson’s home side further power in front of goal.

Despite the offensive replacement the away side came closest to scoring in the second half but Kristoffer Nordfeldt reached down to stop Levan Shengelia’s whipped shot superbly with eight minutes left.

Ibrahimovic’s return came to an end on 84 minutes as he left the field for Mainz striker Robin Quaison and Andersson’s side held on for three points.

Sweden next travel to Kosovo on Sunday as Georgia host Spain earlier in the day.

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