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Larsson tough act to follow in Sweden strike role

© Reuters 2002

WARSAW, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Sweden and Ajax Amsterdam striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic still has a long way to go before filling the boots of Henrik Larsson, national coach Lars Lagerbaeck said on Tuesday.

Lagerbaeck said Larsson, who retired from the international game after the FIFA World Cup" but remains active at club level with Celtic, was not only one of the best strikers in the world but also a team leader.

"Not only is Larsson a born sniper, but he also works hard for the team. We will need much time to fill that void," said Lagerbaeck, who along with Tommy Soederberg co-coaches Sweden.

"Zlatan is undoubtedly a very good player, but we cannot say he can replace Larsson. It's true he can score goals like some of the world's top strikers, he has loads of potential but also much to learn," Lagerbaeck said on the sidelines of an UEFA coaches summit in Warsaw.

Lagerbaeck said his main problem in fielding a national team was that many Swedish players could not hold down a secure place in their club's starting line-up.

But he added that younger players, such as Djurgarden's Kim Kallstrom could soon rejuvenate the national squad.

Sweden drew 0-0 with Lithuania in their first 2004 European championship qualifier. Poland, Hungary and San Marino round out Sweden's qualifying group.

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