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Stars are aligned for Messi to lift World Cup, says Ibrahimovic

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DUBAI: Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes the stars are aligned for Lionel Messi to finally capture that elusive World Cup trophy, the AC Milan forward told reporters in Dubai on Monday.

Contesting a record-equalling fifth World Cup, Messi will be looking to reach the second final of his career in the competition when Argentina take on Croatia in the last-four stage on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old Messi is very likely making his final World Cup appearance and with the likes of Brazil, Portugal, Germany and Spain all knocked out in Qatar, the Argentines look primed to clinch football’s most prestigious title for the first time since 1986.

Ibrahimovic, who continues to rehabilitate his knee while joining his AC Milan team-mates for a winter training camp in Dubai, heaped praise on the other three semi-finalists in Doha but assured he only sees one team walking away with the trophy.

“I think it’s already written who will win, and you know who I mean. I think Messi will lift the trophy, it’s already written,” said Ibrahimovic, who represented Sweden in two World Cups in 2002 and 2006.

Argentina and surprise semi-finalists Morocco will try to stop France and Croatia from setting up a rematch of the title decider from Russia 2018, with the Atlas Lions taking on the reigning champions on Wednesday.

Ibrahimovic described France and Croatia as “strong nations” but believes a Messi triumph is inevitable.

Asked about Morocco, who became the first ever African or Arab team to make the final four at a World Cup, Ibrahimovic said: “I don’t think it’s a surprise because I knew they were good before the World Cup. Then obviously in the World Cup everything can happen.

“That they reached the semi-final, maybe a little surprised, but remember it’s a good team, a good nation. And these surprises I think the people like; they enjoy because they want these things to happen so they get some kind of extra adrenaline.”

Emotional Ronaldo

The Moroccans punched their ticket to a historic semi-final by stunning Spain and Portugal back-to-back.

Scenes of a tearful Cristiano Ronaldo making his way to the dressing room following Portugal’s elimination have been replayed on TV screens across the globe, marking a difficult ending to the 37-year-old’s quest for World Cup glory.

Pressed to send a message to Ronaldo, Ibrahimovic said: “I think it’s not important what I can say. I mean everybody wants to win the World Cup; not everybody gets to win the World Cup.

“Everybody is trying and if you don’t win it obviously you’ll get emotional, if you win it, you get also emotional in a different way.”

Ibrahimovic added that the real story behind Ronaldo’s unceremonious exit from Manchester United will never be revealed, making it tough for him to weigh in on the matter.

“His exiting United, I think when things happen, we will never know the true story. They say what they want to say, he says what he needs to say to protect himself, then you have the coach that says these things to protect himself,” said Ibrahimovic, who spent two seasons at Manchester United from 2016 to 2018.

“Then the club says things – not like me, I will tell you how it really happened. But we are all different. Everybody is careful about their image.

“For me the perfect image is being yourself. The true story we will not know my friend.”

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