ZLATAN Ibrahmovic has again hinted that he could come out of international retirement to lead Sweden at the 2018 World Cup as he bids to return for Manchester United.
The legendary striker has been out of action for most of the season, having comeback from a serious knee injury in December before re-injuring himself on Boxing Day.
But now the 36-year-old has done little to quash talks of a World Cup dream call up.
“When I’m ready to perform, [that’s when I’ll return from injury]. It’s all about that,” Ibrahimovic told Reuters about his injury status for club.
“I want to get to the point where I can perform as I haven’t been able to take part so much during the season.”
Ibrahimovic, who scored 62 goals in 116 games for his country, then said of the chances of him going to a World Cup: “The thoughts are there the whole time, but if I want to, I’ll be there.”
Meanwhile, legendary Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo has taken to Twitter to reject a call up for March international friendlies against Sweden and Denmark after his side failed to qualify for the World Cup.
After 119 appearances for the South American giants, including penalty heroics in back-to-back Copa America titles, Bravo fell out with the national federation after reports they rejected his request to use his personal goalkeeper coach.
“I deeply regret you are calling me against my will because over the years I have gained minimum respect for this shield,” he said to his 1.9 million followers.
“My preparation and work are very important to me.”
Here are some of the other major squads for upcoming internationals…
BEN YEDDER EARNS FRANCE CALL-UP
Wissam Ben Yedder’s brace which sent Manchester United crashing out of the Champions League in midweek earned the Sevilla striker his first ever call-up for France.
France coach Didier Deschamps also found space for Paul Pogba and his Manchester United teammate Anthony Martial in his squad to face Colombia at the Stade de France on March 23, and Russia in St Petersburg four days later.
Monaco’s former Arsenal target Thomas Lemar, and his clubmate Djibril Sidibe were both named on the back of their team’s 14-match Ligue 1 unbeaten run, while Barcelona starlet Ousmane Dembele is also back for Deschamps.
Goalkeepers: Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Steve Mandanda (Marseille), Alphonse Areola (PSG)
Defenders: Lucas Digne (Barcelona), Lucas Hernandez (Atletico Madrid), Presnel Kimpembe (PSG), Laurent Koscielny (Arsenal), Benjamin Pavard (Stuttgart), Djibril Sidibe (Monaco), Samuel Umtiti (Barcelona), Raphael Varane (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: N’Golo Kante (Chelsea), Thomas Lemar (Monaco), Blaise Matuidi (Juventus), Paul Pogba (Manchester United), Adrien Rabiot (PSG), Corentin Tolisso (Bayern Munich)
Strikers: Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla), Ousmane Dembele (Barcelona), Olivier Giroud (Chelsea), Antoine Griezmann (Atletico Madrid), Anthony Martial (Manchester United), Kylian Mbappe (PSG), Florian Thauvin (Marseille)
ENGLAND CALL UP FOUR NEWCOMERS
England coach Gareth Southgate named four newcomers in his squad for this month’s friendlies against the Netherlands and Italy.
Burnley duo Nick Pope and James Tarkowski, Swansea’s Alfie Mawson and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook were included in a 27-man squad for the game in Amsterdam on March 23 and the Italy match at Wembley four days later.
Liverpool midfielders Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana are back after injury while Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere was recalled for the first time since the 2016 European Championship defeat against Iceland.
Southgate also omitted centre backs Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Michael Keane, while they are also without striker Harry Kane
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart (West Ham), Jack Butland (Stoke), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders: Kyle Walker, John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester), Kieran Trippier, Danny Rose (Tottenham), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Ryan Bertrand (Southampton), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Alfie Mawson (Swansea)
Midfielders: Eric Dier, Dele Alli (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Lewis Cook (Bournemouth), Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Alex Oxlade- Chamberlain (Liverpool), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Jake Livermore (West Brom)
Forwards: Jamie Vardy (Leicester), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal)
RONALDO SPEARHEADS WORLD CUP WARM UPS
Cristiano Ronaldo headlined the Portugal squad named to face Egypt in Zurich on March 23 and the Netherlands in Geneva four days later.
The European Champions’ coach Fernando Santos will have to do without central defender Pepe, but has called up 20-year-old Benfica defender Ruben Dias.
Portugal were third in FIFA’s world rankings released behind only Germany and Brazil with the World Cup in three months time.
Goalkeepers: Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon), Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Beto (Goeztepe)
Defenders: Cédric Soares (Southampton), Joao Cancelo (Inter Milan), Bruno Alves (Rangers), José Fonte (Dalian Yifang), Rolando (Marseille), Ruben Dias (Benfica), Fabio Coentrao (Sporting Lisbon), Raphael Guerreiro (Borussia Dortmund)
Midfield: William Carvalho (Sporting Lisbon), Ruben Neves (Wolverhampton), Joao Moutinho (Monaco), Adrien Silva (Leicester), Manuel Fernandes (Lokomotiv Moscow), André Gomes (Barcelona), Joao Mario (West Ham), Bruno Fernandes (Sporting Lisbon).
Strikers: Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Gelson Martins (Sporting Lisbon), Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas), Gonçalo Guedes (Valencia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), André Silva (AC Milan)
RAMSEY MISSES OUT, BALE IN WALES SQUAD
Wales will be without Aaron Ramsey at the China Cup as the Arsenal midfielder is set to undergo minor surgery but new manager Ryan Giggs picked Gareth Bale in his first squad.
Ramsey played in Arsenal’s Europa League win over AC Milan but the 27-year-old will miss the four-team tournament in Nanning, which also involves hosts China, the Czech Republic and Uruguay.
Real Madrid forward Bale is in the squad, while Ashley Williams, who has been in the spotlight at Everton after making several high-profile mistakes, has retained the captaincy.
But Reading midfielder David Edwards has retired from international football, while Liverpool goalkeeper Danny Ward misses out because of an administrative issue with his visa after his passport was lost in the post.
Goalkeepers: Wayne Hennessey, Chris Maxwell, Michael Crowe
Defenders: Ashley Williams, James Chester, Ben Davies, Chris Gunter, Neil Taylor, Declan John, Connor Roberts, Ethan Ampadu, Christopher Mepham, Tom Lockyer
Midfielders: Joe Ledley, Lee Evans, Joe Allen, Andy King, Ryan Hedges, Marley Watkins
Attackers: Gareth Bale, Tom Lawrence, Ben Woodburn, Harry Wilson, Billy Bodin, Sam Vokes, Tom Bradshaw