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By ESPN Staff

Sweden coach axes players for being late

STOCKHOLM, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Sweden have called up Teddy Lucic, Stefan Ishizaki and Fredrik Berglund for Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifer against Liechtenstein, replacing Zlatan Ibrahimovic and two other players axed for staying out late.

The decision by coach Lars Lagerback to send home Inter Milan striker Ibrahimovic, as well as Aston Villa defender Olof Mellberg and Nantes midfielder Christian Wilhelmsson, created banner headlines in Swedish media.

One newspaper reported that the fiery Ibrahimovic had said he would refuse to play for the national side again, although he later told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport that he was sorry for what happened.

'Personally I am very unhappy about the tense situation which has been created on the eve of an important match like the one with Liechtenstein,' he told the newspaper.

'The reaction of coach Lagerback seemed exaggerated to me, but I accept his decisions and apologise for my lateness in going back to join the rest of the squad, (I apologise) to the coach, to my team mates and the Swedish Federation.'

The Swedish soccer association said in a statement that Lagerback had drafted in Lucic of Swedish premier league side BK Hacken, Berglund of FC Copenhagen and Ishizaki of Elfsborg.

Sweden won their opening qualifier 1-0 against Latvia in Riga on Saturday with a Kim Kallstrom goal.