EURO Classics: Denmark 2-2 Sweden

See how Zlatan Ibrahimović galvanised a nation in Copenhagen. Watch the game IN FULL on UEFA.tv.

Zlatan Ibrahimović celebrates in Copenhagen
Zlatan Ibrahimović celebrates in Copenhagen UEFA via Getty Images

A 2-1 home win in the first leg of their UEFA EURO 2016 play-off against neighbours Denmark looked a slender margin as Sweden lined up for the decider in Copenhagen. Could Zlatan Ibrahimović lead them to a fifth successive EURO? Of course he could: watch this EURO classic to find out how he did it.

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Context

Highlights: Sweden 2-1 Denmark
Highlights: Sweden 2-1 Denmark

Following third-placed finishes in their respective European Qualifiers groups, Sweden and Denmark faced each other over two legs for a place in the finals in France. Erik Hamrén’s side had cause for optimism after 50 minutes of the first leg, when Ibrahimović converted from the spot to make it 2-0, Emil Forsberg having opened the scoring. However, Nicolai Jørgensen’s scrambled effort late on in Solna seemed to tilt the balance back in Denmark’s favour going into the decider.

Key players

Zlatan Ibrahimović: Aged 34, Sweden’s all-time top scorer had struck his ninth goal of the qualifying campaign in the first leg, and the Paris man was eager to make it to a fourth EURO – and avoid ending his international career on a low note.

Kasper Schmeichel: Danish footballing royalty, the son of Manchester United goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel denied Ibrahimović with a fine full-length save in the first leg. En route to Premier League glory with Leicester, he was in peak form.

Nicklas Bendtner: The former Arsenal striker was at the heart of a three-pronged attack, between Nicola Jørgensen and Yussuf Poulsen. Could he upstage Zlatan in Copenhagen?

What happened

Berg: Teamwork key to Sweden success
Berg: Teamwork key to Sweden success

Disaster almost struck early on when Kim Källström smacked an attempted clearance against his own crossbar, but Sweden recovered, Ibrahimović extending their aggregate lead on 19 minutes when he was able to sneak the ball into the net from a corner.

Ibrahimović's venomously-struck free-kick on 76 minutes left Denmark needing four goals to turn the tie around, and they did their best to chase a lost cause. Headed finishes from Poulsen and Jannik Vestegaard gave the Danes a faint glimmer of hope, but time ultimately ran out, and defeat marked the end of Morten Olsen's 15-year spell in charge.

THE GAME AS IT HAPPENED


Reaction

Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sweden forward: "They said they were going to send me to retirement. I sent their whole nation into retirement."

Erik Hamrén, Sweden coach: "We played two good games against Denmark in the play-offs. They were the favourites with a better ranking. Sweden had not won against Denmark in over a decade."

Schmeichel on 'devastating' Denmark defeat
Schmeichel on 'devastating' Denmark defeat

Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark goalkeeper: "It's a massive blow. There are only a certain amount of tournaments you can qualify for in a career … it’s devastating."

Elsewhere that evening

Hungary and the Republic of Ireland had confirmed their EURO places in the days before the Denmark-Sweden game, while Slovenia hosted Ukraine on the same night, hoping to overturn a 2-0 defeat from the first leg in Lviv. They started well, taking an 11th-minute lead through Boštjan Cesar, but the visitors showed a stubborn resolve, and even levelled late through Andriy Yarmolenko.

Aftermath

Highlights: Watch the top ten goals of UEFA EURO 2016
Highlights: Watch the top ten goals of UEFA EURO 2016

Sweden's trip to France for the finals was perhaps not the heroic farewell that Ibrahimović wanted. They finished bottom of their group, and the striker only managed a single shot on target, despite playing every minute of their three games.

Both Denmark and Sweden qualified for the subsequent World Cup, but only the Swedes made it to UEFA EURO 2020 – which will be their first UEFA European Championship without Ibrahimović since 2000.

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