Twelve boys saved during the Thai cave rescue were left speechless after their footballing hero Zlatan Ibrahimovic surprised them during a television interview.

The former Manchester United star "gatecrashed" The Ellen DeGeneres Show where the youngsters and their coach were being filmed.

Just moments after naming him as their idol, DeGeneres told Ibrahimovic to "come out" from behind the stage.

Ibrahimovic, 37, who currently plays for LA Galaxy, praised the boys' bravery and called them "the best team in the world".

The group made worldwide news after they became trapped in the cave in northern Thailand on June 23.

Only after they were found by two British divers could a daring rescue mission begin which ended on July 10.

The boys became trapped by rising waters. Credit: AP

The boys told the show on Monday that prayer and meditation helped them stay calm during the ordeal.

They said that it was now their dream to get a good education and find a job - as well as play professional football - so they can support their families.

When Ibrahimovic appeared, the youngsters looked visibly shocked as they clapped and smiled.

"I thought that that was brave, but this team is braver than me," Ibrahimovic said.

"They showed their collective team work and had patience... believing in other hands also.

"This is probably the best team in the world."