'Even at 40 with a broken leg I’d never want Ibra against me' - De Rossi happy to avoid Man Utd striker

Zlatan Ibrahimovic Giorgio Chiellini Italy Sweden Euro 2016
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Italy face Sweden for a place at the 2018 World Cup and the Azzurri midfielder feels his team's chances have been given a boost

Daniele de Rossi is glad Italy no longer have to worry about Zlatan Ibrahimovic as he would not fancy playing against the Swede ‘even at 40 with a broken leg’.

Ibrahimovic, who is currently recovering from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, retired from international duty after Euro 2016.

Italy 11/8 in Sweden

Italy face Sweden over two legs for a place at the 2018 World Cup and experienced midfielder De Rossi feels the Manchester United striker’s absence is a bonus for the Azzurri.

“The fact there there’s no Ibrahimovic is an advantage for anyone who has to face them,” the 116-time Italy international said.

“Even at 40 with a broken leg I’d never want Ibra against me. It could be an advantage [for Sweden], it’s certainly better that he’s not there.

“It’s not that the rest of them are strangers though, we know them because some of them play in Italy and others play in important European leagues. They’re no mugs.”

Italy finished second in Group G behind Spain in the European Qualifiers, and must succeed against Sweden across two legs to in order to progress to their 19th World Cup.

Having appeared at every World Cup since the Azzurri triumphed on penalties against France back in 2006, De Rossi admitted part of his drive to succeed is to help replicate those feelings for his younger Italian compatriots.

De Rossi Italy Uruguay

“If the World Cup is important for me, when I’ve already played three, let’s think how important it is for those who have never been there,” he said.

“Going to the World Cup is everything. San Siro will be sold out, so it’ll be a great stage and we’ll have to prove we belong there and stand up to it.

“To ask for faith from the fans would be inappropriate right now, it’s not the right time. We have to win this game.”

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Sweden made their way out of one of the tougher European qualifying groups, finishing second behind France and ahead of the Netherlands on goal difference – and De Rossi recognises the challenges his side face.

“We’re strong, maybe better than Sweden, but there’s a little bit of fear that right now is almost necessary,” he said.

“Football is a lot more open now, the great players aren’t just in the big European countries, or Brazil and Argentina. There’s a lot of confidence in the dressing room though.”