Zlatan Ibrahimovic to skip Rio Games, quit international soccer

Getty Images
0 Comments

NICE, France (AP) — Zlatan Ibrahimovic is ending his international career after the European Championship, meaning he could represent Sweden for the last time on Wednesday.

The 34-year-old striker said Tuesday ahead of Sweden’s final Group E game against Belgium that it would be his last appearance for his country if the team gets eliminated.

“The last game for Sweden in Euro will be my last game with Sweden, so I hope it will not be tomorrow,” he said. “Let’s hope it goes as long as possible.”

Even if Sweden loses and fails to qualify for the knockout stages, Ibrahimovic said he would not be disappointed with such an end to his 15-year international career.

“To finish on a disappointment, never, because I’m very proud to be captain of Sweden and what I achieved. So I want to take this moment and thank all the supporters, because they make it possible for me to achieve what I have achieved,” he said. “For me disappointment doesn’t exist, only proudness and grateful and very thankful.”

He added that he “will not participate in the Olympics” in Rio de Janeiro. He had been named in a provisional Swedish squad.

Ibrahimovic is Sweden’s record scorer with 62 goals and can become its joint sixth most-capped player with 116 appearances on Wednesday. Sweden, which has one point after its opening 1-1 draw against Ireland, still has a chance of qualifying for the round of 16 even though it has yet to register a single shot on target. Its only goal at Euro 2016 was an own goal. The Swedes almost certainly need a win against Belgium to qualify.

Looking ahead to the match, Ibrahimovic said: “We need to play a bit more as a team, need to be better.”

“There’s a lot of pressure on us but we’re still in there, we’ve managed to stay in there and we’ll do everything we can to continue in the tournament,” he said. “I feel good, I really feel 100 percent. Thus far I haven’t really been able to play at my best level.”

Sweden coach Erik Hamren highlighted Ibrahimovic’s contribution to the team and to Swedish soccer in general.

“Our greatest star going is a big loss,” Hamren said. “We have one international player that’s really at the same level as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and that’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic.”

Hamren added that Ibrahimovic had discussed retirement with him in “January or February” but that Ibrahimovic only confirmed it Tuesday.

“I think Sweden do have a bright future in football, but of course if we lose Zlatan Ibrahimovic that will be a huge loss,” Hamren said. “As a goal scorer of course but also as an individual he has really helped Swedish football.”

Ibrahimovic can expect little sympathy from Belgium, at least not on the field.

“Hopefully it will be his last game tomorrow for Sweden,” said Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen, who was a youth player for Ajax during Ibrahimovic’s time there. “Lots of respect for his career, but I’m very selfish tomorrow.”

MORE: James Rodríguez will miss Rio Olympics, reports say

Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

Diana Taurasi
Getty
0 Comments

Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

Mo Farah likely to retire this year

Mo Farah
Getty
0 Comments

British track legend Mo Farah will likely retire by the end of this year.

“I’m not going to go to the Olympics, and I think 2023 will probably be my last year,” the 39-year-old Farah said, according to multiple British media reports.

Farah, who swept the 5000m and 10,000m golds at the Olympics in 2012 and 2016, was announced Tuesday as part of the field for the London Marathon on April 23.

Last May, Farah reportedly said he believed his career on the track was over, but not the roads.

London might not be his last marathon. Farah also said that if, toward the end of this year, he was capable of being picked to run for Britain again, he would “never turn that down,” according to Tuesday’s reports.

It’s not clear if Farah was referencing the world track and field championships, which include a marathon and are in Budapest in August. Or selection for the 2024 British Olympic marathon team.

The fastest British male marathoner last year ran 2:10:46, ranking outside the top 300 in the world. Farah broke 2:10 in all five marathons that he’s finished, but he hasn’t run one since October 2019 (aside from pacing the 2020 London Marathon).

Farah withdrew four days before the last London Marathon on Oct. 2, citing a right hip injury.

Farah switched from the track to the marathon after the 2017 World Championships and won the 2018 Chicago Marathon in a then-European record time of 2:05:11. Belgium’s Bashir Abdi now holds the record at 2:03:36.

Farah’s best London Marathon finish in four starts was third place in 2018.

Farah returned to the track in a failed bid to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, then shifted back to the roads.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!