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Euro 2016: No qualifier painkillers for Zlatan

October 07, 2014 19:31 IST
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Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Sweden's forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic takes off the captain's armband. Photograph: Erik Martensson/Reuters

Zlatan Ibrahimovic is racing to be fit for Sweden's Euro 2016 qualifiers against Russia and Liechtenstein in Stockholm, but won't risk playing with pain-killing injections.

The Sweden captain told a media conference in Stockholm that he is still suffering from an injured heel tendon that has caused him to miss four games for Paris Saint Germain, and that he was still unsure if he would play any part in the qualifiers.

"I won't play with painkillers, that can make things a lot worse," Ibrahimovic told reporters, adding that he would wait until Thursday to decide if he would play that evening against Russia.

"Against Lyon I played with a painkilling injection and it lasted 45 minutes. After that it was chaos."

Ibrahimovic said that his long career had taught him to listen to his body, rather than try to play when injured.

"If you play when you're injured you punish yourself in the long run. I go around almost like a zombie when I'm injured."

Despite his injury Sweden's all-time leading goal-scorer was on good form, joking with media as he discussed his medical condition and whether he would one day make a good manager for the Swedish national side.

"Absolutely not," he said, grinning. "I'd knock two of them out after the first half."

Ramos injury exposes Spain's defensive weakness

Sergio Ramos

Sergio Ramos of Spain reacts. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The call-up of Marc Bartra, who is not even a regular in the Barcelona team, as a replacement for Sergio Ramos in the Spain squad is an indication of the weakness at centre half which national coach Vicente del Bosque blames on foreign imports.

While Spain have become known for their mesmeric passing game, their success at the last two European Championships and the 2010 World Cup was also built on defensive solidity, epitomised by the never-say-die attitude of the talismanic Carles Puyol.

His last-ditch challenges and aerial strength at set-plays inspired his team mates and it was his header from a corner in their semi-final against Germany in South Africa that booked Spain a place in the World Cup final.

He was missing through injury for Euro 2012 but Ramos and Gerard Pique provided a dependable partnership in front of goalkeeper Iker Casillas who was in his prime and making saves that led him to be nicknamed ‘Saint Iker’ by fans. Ramos has since taken on the leadership role from the retired Puyol and is undoubtedly one of the top centre-halves in the world. Pique’s star has been on the wane, however, and there is not much competition for places behind him.

While Spain failed as a team at this year’s World Cup where they went out in the group stage, Pique in particular was exposed for his lack of agility when strikers ran at him.

However, Ramos denied there was a lack of quality. “There is no doubt that Pique has been playing for the national team for many years and has done well. He will always have chances,” Ramos told reporters. “We are not worried about any position (in the team). Recently we have had a lot of centre-halves called up so I think the position is well covered.”

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Source: REUTERS
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