No Ibrahimovic, no problem for Sweden as last 16 beckons

No Zlatan Ibrahimovic, no problem for Sweden, which advanced to the World Cup last 16 after defeating Mexico 3-0 on Wednesday.

Sweden celebrate qualifying for the World Cup last 16   -  Getty Images

"In the beginning, the first games were different because I felt I can do it much better than them, obviously. And still I feel that."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic questioned Sweden prior to their must-win encounter at the World Cup.

Sweden's most decorated player, all-time leading scorer and more. Away from the international spotlight and on the sidelines.

Despite stunning Italy in the play-offs, not many expected Sweden – without Ibrahimovic – to advance from Group F in Russia. Its team – lacking the individual quality of reigning champion Germany and Mexico – was tipped to say farewell to the tournament before the knockout round.

But Sweden has shown unique unity and skill of its own to make it to the round of 16 for the first time since 2006 – an achievement sealed by Wednesday's 3-0 win over Mexico.

Janne Andersson's men were unfortunate to walk away empty handed from last week's clash against Germany. Sweden troubled the titleholder throughout in Sochi and should have scored more than one goal before Toni Kroos broke its hearts at the death.

Sweden was deflated post-match. Walking through the mixed zone, it could not hide its disappointment – Manchester United's Victor Lindelof almost in tears.

But Sweden did not drop its heads. Having been on the verge of qualifying within two games, the Europeans produced their best performance of the World Cup to top the group.

Sweden controlled the fixture in Ekaterinburg. Aside from Carlos Vela's delightful effort in the first half, it was hardly troubled by the free-flowing CONCACAF giant.

Ludwig Augustinsson, another Andreas Granqvist penalty and a freakish own goal saw Sweden score more than two goals for the first time in 12 matches.

Not known for its goalscoring exploits, Sweden showed it can attack and it did so with great effect against an underwhelming Mexico outfit.

Sweden appears free. Free from the shackles and looming shadow of Ibrahimovic.

No Ibrahimovic, no problem for Sweden.

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