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2 Soccer Stars See Little Luck in World Cup

Posted October. 29, 2009 08:54,   


Zlatan Ibrahimović eagerly awaited playing in Sweden’s final World Cup qualifier at home Oct. 15 against Portugal.

Sweden had just clobbered Albania, 4-1, but was behind a point to Portugal in Group A.

Prior to the game, he said, “I hope to play in the World Cup finals even at risk to my own life,” yet was replaced due to a knee injury. Sweden eventually lost, 1-0, and failed to qualify for South Africa next year.

Ibrahimović, 28, has had no luck in the World Cup. The veteran of the Dutch, Italian and Spanish pro leagues went scoreless in the 2002 and 2006 tournaments.

Blessed with measurements of 195 centimeters in height and 84 kilograms in weight and excellent individual skills, he has earned a reputation as a scoring machine but also the nickname of “chicken” for his indecisiveness.

He had expressed a stronger commitment ahead of next year’s World Cup. After winning the scoring title in Italy’s Serie A last season, he continued to find the back of the net at FC Barcelona in Spain after his transfer this season.

Sweden coach Lars Lagerback had put his trust into the striker, saying over the qualifier period, “Ibrahimović will save Sweden from a crisis.” The Swedes failed to embrace a new generation of players in failing to make the cut, however, and Ibrahimović will be remembered as an ill-fated star.

After Sweden’s elimination was confirmed, he apathetically said, “I haven’t given up my dream of a World Cup victory.” He spoke of playing in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil but sounded less confident.

Another unlucky player, Ryan Giggs, was born in Britain. After his father, a famous rugby player, left his mother, he chose to take her motherland Wales instead of his father’s England as his nationality. He also changed his last name from Wilson to his mother’s maiden name.

This choice proved to be an obstacle in his illustrious career. He made his debut at Manchester United in 1990, and led his team to 11 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns.

Yet he has never played in the World Cup.

The U.K. consists of four federal states -- England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland – all of which have their own soccer associations, reflecting regionalism.

Giggs, 36, did have a number of chances to play in the World Cup. The head of the English Football Association invited him to play for England, but he repeatedly declined, saying he would be happier playing in World Cup qualifiers for Wales than clinching victory in an English uniform.

In 2007, he retired from the Welsh national team. Back then, he expressed his strong affection for Wales, saying, “I feel proud to see many players with huge potential. I will pray for Wales’ advance to the World Cup from a distance.”