Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic has insisted that he did not applaud Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo after the latter completed his hat-trick in Tuesday’s World Cup qualification win.
The Paris Saint-Germain striker was seen clapping his hands after Ronaldo scored his third goal of the game to effectively end Sweden’s World Cup ambitions, but Ibrahimovic has stressed that he was simply attempting to rouse his team-mates rather than show the Madrid man his appreciation.
“Was I applauding Ronaldo? No, I was just trying to encourage my team-mates. I clapped my hands to cheer them up and motivate them for the last few minutes. We had already gone down before. It is important not to give up until the final whistle because the unexpected can always happen,” Ibrahimovic told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
The PSG striker did confess his admiration for the 28-year-old’s prowess on the counterattack but insisted his own side’s defensive lapses made life easy for the Madrid man.
“He’s obviously a great player, but we allowed him way too much space. Nobody’s as good as he is on the counterattack. This game once more showed his biggest qualities. Is he the best player in the world? I can only say that he scored one goal more than I did,” added Ibrahimovic.