Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic produced a display of individual brilliance to defeat England 4-2 in Stockholm, stealing the headlines from England skipper Steven Gerrard on the night of his 100th cap.
There has been a common perception in England that Ibrahimovic has never produced anything special against English sides, including the national team, but his performance on Wednesday night has certainly put that view to rest.
Scoring four goals on its own is some achievement but if we take into account the way he scored his goals, the ease in which he played and the lesson he gave to England’s defenders, it truly was one of the all-time great performances in a national shirt. His fourth goal in particular is a goal that if you haven’t seen already, would be well worth flying all the way to Sweden just to see again. It was a very special goal on a very special night for Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
With this game being Sweden’s first at their new 50,000 capacity stadium, the pressure was on the home side to give their new stadium a christening with a victory.
They started second best to England who had given starts to debutants Raheem Sterling, Steven Caulker and Leon Osman. However, England lost possession high up the field and after a devastating counter attack the ball kindly fell to Paris Saint-Germain forward Ibrahimovic who poked home the first national goal at the Friends Arena.
England drew themselves level shortly after when Manchester United team mates Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck combined for Young to claim an assist and Welbeck the goal. Debutant Steven Caulker scored his first goal for his country to put Roy Hodgsons’s side 2-1 ahead at half time when he converted a pinpoint Steven Gerrard free kick but England’s goal proved trivial because of the Swedish captain’s brilliance.
The second half was mostly uneventful and saw England make six changes, including the introduction of three more debutants; Ryan Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and Wilfried Zaha.
These changes unsettled England and they found themselves conceding three goals in the last fifteen minutes, all at the hands of Zlatan Ibrahimovic. His equaliser, and his second goal, came from a brutal volley whilst his goal to put Sweden ahead came from a long distance free kick. Joe Hart in the England goal will think he should have done better with the third goal in a game which certainly won’t be remembered as Hart’s best in an England shirt.
If his previous three goals were good his fourth was out of this world. With exquisite technique and an outrageous body position Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored an overhead kick which rivals any goal previously scored in world football.
England by no means played badly but were outdone by one man at the peak of his game. Shawcross, Cahill and Caulker will all be better defenders after this experience of playing against Zlatan Ibrahimovic who single handily defeated the third best team in the world.