Zlatan Ibrahimovic watched the goal that ended Sweden’s European Championship run from 50 yards away. As Belgium took the lead with a long-range strike in the 84th minute, he stood on the halfway line with his hands on his hips.
Ibrahimovic knew what it meant. After three games at the tournament and no victories, Sweden was crashing out. His international career had six minutes to go.
When the final whistle came on Wednesday night, Ibrahimovic confirmed what he had promised the day before. Euro 2016 would be the last time he played for Sweden. Though Ibrahimovic, 34, plans to continue playing at club level, his 15 years of frustrating, occasionally mesmerizing, often unfulfilled soccer for his country were over.
“It feels heavy. It feels disappointing,” he said after the game. “But at the same time I enjoyed.”
Just 24 hours earlier, when he told the world that his international career would end with Sweden’s European campaign, he had said, “For me disappointment doesn’t exist.” But those words rang hollow while Belgium celebrated its qualification for the round of 16. Ibrahimovic slowly shook hands with the match officials, applauded the raucous Sweden fans and skulked down the tunnel.