Zlatan Ibrahimovic thinks Sweden have less pressure on their shoulders since he decided to retire from international football.

Italy travel to Sweden for the first leg of their World Cup play-off on Friday in Stockholm with the return leg in Milan’s San Siro on Monday.

Manchester United striker Ibrahimovic, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, retired from international duty after Euro 2016 and thinks his team have nothing to lose but everything to gain.

“Sweden are playing without pressure, because since I left, nobody expects much of them now, from the media to the fans,” Ibrahimovic told Sky Sport Italia.

“When I play, the level is raised, so it is lowered in my absence. Having said that, this squad remains a good collective, just with less responsibility on their shoulders.

“The players are not very experienced, but the project is ambitious.”

Italy go into the tie as favourites to progress but are in danger of missing out on qualification to the World Cup for the first time in 50 years.

“My first thought was that those between Sweden and Italy will be two good matches,” Ibrahimovic added.

“It’s difficult for both teams, which obviously have a great desire to go to the World Cup.

“Sweden will do everything to pass, Italy is the same, but the most important thing is that there will be two great matches, two finals practically.”