Ibrahimovic shines as Sweden sink Croatia

Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent an ominous warning to Sweden's Euro 2012 rivals with an impressive performance steering his team to a 3-1 win over Croatia in a friendly on Wednesday.

Group rivals England, France and co-hosts Ukraine will be scratching their heads wondering how to stop the towering 30-year-old striker who is by his own account close to the end of his international career.

"I am getting old and I hope the up and coming young players, some of whom shone this evening, will fill the void when I leave," Ibrahimovic told Croatian television after scoring one goal and setting up two for Sebastian Larsson.

"We hope we can reproduce this kind of performance at Euro 2012 in June. It was a very good game tonight and we beat a very good team so we can be very happy with our achievement."

Judging by his tireless running and a bagful of tricks which bedazzled Croatia's defence, Ibrahimovic still has plenty left to offer on the big stage.

With the midfield bereft of ideas and the strikers lacking bite, Croatia were torn to pieces by Sweden's simple approach based on well-organised defending and Ibrahimovic's individual skills.

DRILLED PENALTY

The AC Milan striker put the visitors ahead when he drilled in a 13th-minute penalty and although the hosts equalised thanks to a Jonas Olsson own goal, Croatia were again undone by their tormentor straight after the restart.

Ibrahimovic's darting 40-metre run set up a shot for Samuel Holmen that goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa could only parry into the path of half-time substitute Larsson who guided the ball into the empty net.

The Sunderland midfielder grabbed his second in the 69th minute, capitalising on a defence-splitting pass by Ibrahimovic that almost caused two Croatia defenders to collide as he played the ball between them.

Croatia coach Slaven Bilic heaped praise on the Sweden hit-man after he received a standing ovation from the crowd on a chilly night at the Maksimir Stadium.

"Ibrahimovic is an outstanding player and our defence gave him far too much room to operate in but sometimes you just can't stop world class performers like him no matter what you do," said Bilic.

"We had some bright moments but our heads went down after we conceded the second goal and we will have to improve our overall fitness if we are to stand any chance of doing well at Euro 2012."

If the display against Sweden is anything to go by, Croatia face a mammoth task to progress to the last eight from a group including holders Spain, Italy and Ireland.


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