Ibrahimović hails 'Swedish Vikings'

Sweden's mastery of brinkmanship has taken them through to the U21 EURO semi-finals and got senior team captain Zlatan Ibrahimović thinking about Rio de Janeiro.

Sweden's late goals have taken them to the semi-finals
Sweden's late goals have taken them to the semi-finals ©Sportsfile

It takes a lot to impress Zlatan Ibrahimović, but even the Paris Saint-Germain striker got caught up in the excitement as Sweden once again showed remarkable poise to claim a place in the U21 EURO semi-finals. "Big congratulations to the U21 team, totally deserved," said Ibrahimović. "We Swedish Vikings never give up."

Håkan Ericson's men will now take on Scandinavian neighbours Denmark at Prague's Letná Stadium on Saturday evening with a place in the final at stake, though they had appeared more likely to be heading home than to the Czech capital.

Trailing 1-0 to Portugal with five minutes of their final Group B game in Olomouc remaining, and with Italy leading comfortably against England in Uherske Hradiste, Sweden would have been out. However, substitute Simon Tibbling struck a minute from time, sending the horde of yellow-and-blue-clad fans delirious, and taking his nation through to the U21 EURO last four for a fifth time.

"The morale, the amount of heart that we have for one another, the workload we put in, that's the most important thing," said Alexander Milošević, who had seen Gonçalo Paciência give Portugal a potentially devastating 82nd-minute lead. "I said in the dressing room that if we concede in the 85th minute, I don't want to see one negative face among us. Honestly, I knew we'd get at least two chances."

Highlights: Portugal 1-1 Sweden
Highlights: Portugal 1-1 Sweden

"Our goal was to reach the semi," said forward Isaac Kiese Thelin. "We found ourselves a goal down but as usual we managed to turn it around." As usual indeed. Sweden have developed a habit of rescuing seemingly lost causes. Milošević's dismissal before the half-hour mark in Sweden's opening Group B game had already given his team-mates the opportunity to display their spirit as they came from behind to win thanks to Kiese Thelin's 86th-minute winner.

Add to that the late goals they scored in qualifying, and in the blockbuster play-off with France, and it is clear that what the Swedish Football Association (SvFF) website called "yet another U21 miracle" has little do with divine intervention.

"What can I say about the spirit in this team? We believe in what we do and have shown it many times," Tibbling told UEFA.com. "It's fantastic to be a part of it. We have done it so many times so nothing is impossible."

It is a context into which Sweden's very own miracle worker, Ibrahimović, could fit snugly into. With three over-age players allowed in the squad that will go to the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics next summer, the 33-year-old could find himself featuring in Brazil having missed out on last year's FIFA World Cup.

"I've never played in any Olympic games so yes, it would be a thrill to be there in Rio de Janeiro 2016," the senior team captain said. "But first of all the team needs to ask me. Maybe they don't think I'd hold down a place, haha."

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