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Sport

Zlatan criticises Sweden soccer boss over Kulusevski snub

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Zlatan Ibrahimovic has criticised Sweden soccer boss Janne Andersson for starting new Juventus signing Dejan Kulusevski on the bench in Saturday’s 1-0 UEFA Nations League loss to world champions France.

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Serie A - AC Milan v Atalanta - San Siro, Milan, Italy - July 24, 2020 AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during the warm up, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

Kulusevksi came on for a 20-minute cameo but said in a post-match interview that he was shocked that he did not get to start, and Andersson’s surprised reaction to the criticism provoked a strong response from Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s record goalscorer.

“What a damn joke. Further proof. Incompetent people in the wrong positions smothering Swedish football,” Ibrahimovic said on Twitter, along with a link to an article from newspaper Aftonbladet which featured coach Andersson’s post-match remarks.

After scoring 62 goals in 116 games, Ibrahimovic retired from international football following Sweden’s exit from Euro 2016.

Kulusevski, asked if he had been given enough time to show what he could do after coming on as a replacement for veteran Sebastian Larsson, was categorical.

“No, no, I don’t think so. I was shocked. It felt really, really good in training. But unfortunately, that’s how football is,” said the 20-year-old, who won rave reviews for his attacking performances on loan at Serie A side Parma last season.

Andersson, who took his team to the quarter-finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia where they lost to England, said he was surprised at Kulusevski’s reaction.

“I haven’t spoken to him afterwards but if he has said it then that is clearly his opinion. We’ll have to talk about it,” Andersson told reporters.

“I haven’t experienced him as being very shocked. He has done well in the training session, as have many others.”

The 57-year-old coach said it was likely that Kulusevski would see more playing time when Sweden hosted Portugal in their next Nations League game on Tuesday at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

Reporting by Philip O’Connor; editing by Clare Fallon

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