Sweden did the unthinkable on Monday night and condemned Italy to miss their first World Cup in 60 years with a 0-0 draw at the San Siro ensuring a 1-0 aggregate win was enough to reach Russia next summer.
However, it was not all smiles after the final whistle as talk quickly turned to the potential return of former captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the post-match press conference, much to the bafflement of head coach Janne Andersson.
The Manchester United striker has not played for Sweden since their exit at Euro 2016 Group Stage in France and has been unable to play at all since a career-threatening knee injury while playing in the Europa League last season.
Ibrahimovic made a cryptic reference to perhaps making a swansong after the final whistle in Milan by tweeting out a picture of the triumphant Swedes with the caption “We are Zweden”.
But Andersson was at a loss to explain why all the questions were about an injured player who has been retired for 18 months after his side’s achievement.
“This is incredible! This player [Ibrahimovic] has just stopped to play with Sweden one year and a half ago and we are still here talking about him,” Andersson said.
“Gosh, we need to talk about the great players we have on this team I believe.
“What I wanted to say was that this was the demonstration that our collective acted like this during the whole length of the playoffs. We have many heroes tonight. I am a bit moved but obviously very happy with the result.”
Andersson even hinted that the 36-year-old wouldn’t necessarily be picked given how, in his view, different Sweden’s style of play is now compared to when Ibrahimovic was on the team.
“When Ibrahimovic was here with us we played a different style of football,” he added. “Considering that he has decided to leave international football, he is a great champion, but we had to adapt and found another style.”