Henrik Larsson is hoping Sweden will go into the World Cup under the radar now that his former strike partner Zlatan Ibrahimovic will not be involved in Russia.

Ibrahimovic retired from international football after Euro 2016 but Sweden’s record goalscorer appeared to be tempted to return after qualification for this summer’s finals had been achieved.

Now at LA Galaxy, the 36-year-old will not add to his 116 international appearances in Russia after speculation over a sensational recall failed to materialise.

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Larsson, another talismanic former Sweden international, believes 
Ibrahimovic’s absence could help his country provide a few shocks when their Group F fixtures start against South Korea next Monday.

Asked if not having the former Manchester United forward in the squad alleviates pressure on the rest of the squad, the former Celtic striker demonstrated a faith in his comptriots and no little humility.

“I hope now there are a few teams who underestimate Sweden,” said Larsson. “The South Korea game is not going to be easy and it is important they do not lose because they have a tough game against Germany after that. Then I think it is going to be decided in the Mexico game.

“He is the best player we ever had from Sweden so it is not strange that those questions [about a recall] came up. But I think it is good now for the group that they can focus on the team and the squad.”

Ibrahimovic suffered a serious knee injury towards the end of the 2016/17 season and, despite signing a new deal at Old Trafford, never won his place back in Jose Mourinho’s side.

He has since moved to Major League Soccer and hit a brace as the Galaxy beat Real Salt Lake over the weekend – but even a move across 
the pond did not stop a clamour for Ibrahimovic to be involved at the World Cup.

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“You guys are still talking about him even though he is not there,” said Larsson. “A fit Zlatan, the way he was before his injury, I think any coach in the world would bring him. But he is not that. There is no point talking about that. It is about the players who are there.

“The team is going to be different in the sense that everybody has to move. The opponent knew in the past that when the ball went up front it was going to him. Now they are not sure. Is it coming short into the feet of either Ola Toivonen and Marcus Berg, who are going to be the two strikers, or are they going long?”

One player who did make Sweden’s 23-man squad is Ibrahimovic’s former United team-mate Victor Lindelof.

The 23-year-old joined from Benfica last summer but had an inconsistent first season in England.

However, he has been backed by Larsson – who had a short loan spell at Old Trafford in 2007 – to prove he is good enough to cut it in the Premier League.

“I would not say he has been struggling,” Larsson added. “Obviously there have been some games that have not been the best but he has 
not been playing much either. Youhave to give the boy a little bit 
more time. He is a very good central defender. The way he reads the game, the way he passes the ball and the speed he has.

“Then it is just a question of getting used to the physicality you have in the Premier League. Next season, he is a clever player, so he is going to adapt. He has not been playing week in, week out and you need to do that to get the self-belief.”

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Where once Celtic supporters followed the fortunes of Larsson - during France 98 and Japan and Korea 2002 – in Swedish colours, now they have Mikael Lustig to cheer on.

The 31-year-old defender says he is looking forward to locking horns with Ki Sung-Yueng, another former Celtic players when the sides meet in their Group F opener on Monday.

The pair crossed paths for six months at Celtic before before Sung-Yueng headed to Swansea in a £6m switch and Lustig admits he is excited by the prospect of facing his former team-mate.

He said: “I’ll see Ki Sung Yueng again in the South Korea game. I played alongside him here at Celtic before he headed down south so it will be nice to see him again. I haven’t spoken to him since he left but he’s a really good guy and a good footballer as well.

“The Spurs forward, Son Heung-min, is the big star in that team too so we’ll have our hands full dealing with him as well. That will be a big game for us. We need to make sure that we don’t lose it or the pressure will really be on when we face Germany.

“It going to be a really tough game but I think we’ve proved over the past 18 months that we can played really good football against some very good teams. We beat Holland in the group and we beat France and Italy. Hopefully we can continue that against Germany.”

Lustig made his 65th appearances for his country in Saturday’s goal-less draw with Peru and is itching to make his World Cup debut.

Speaking to celticfc.net, he added: “Obviously when you’re young you set yourself goals that you want to achieve and the World Cup is one of them. I’ve been to two Euros before but it doesn’t get bigger than the World Cup.”