|Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his fourth goal against England during their international friendly in Stockholm on Wednesday
Having completed a hat trick, Zlatan Ibrahimovic saved his most spectacular effort for last. Scoring from 30 yards with an acrobatic overhead kick, the pony-tailed striker capped an outstanding performance that led Sweden to a 4-2 win over England in a friendly Wednesday. “Magic, magic,” Ibrahimovic said.
The Sweden captain has scored a string of spectacular goals that have become internet classics, but this one was perhaps the greatest of them all. Chasing a long pass, Ibrahimovic held back when goalkeeper Joe Hart rushed out to clear the ball with an awkward header just outside the penalty area.
Ibrahimovic turned around to reach the ball before it could hit the ground and lifted it over Hart and two England defenders with an audacious bicycle kick, struck with his back to goal. “When I saw the goalkeeper was out, I tried to put it against the goal, and luckily it went in,” Ibrahimovic said. “It’s both luck and skill.”
|How it happened
|1) With the ball going towards the edge of the box, England keeper Joe Hart attempts to clear the ball to safety but his header goes skywards
|2) Ibrahimovic, seeing Hart off his line, moves back a few steps and executes an unbelievable bicycle kick volley
|3) Launched from eight feet above the ground, the ball travels 30 yards, rising to 25 feet before clearing the goal line on the full
Steven Gerrard, who played his 100th match for England, called it “one of the best goals I’ve ever seen live.” After a dull start, Ibrahimovic put Sweden ahead on a counterattack in the 20th minute, scoring the first goal in the newly built Friends Arena. But England scored twice within three minutes toward the end of the first half to take command of the match.
Ashley Young beat his defender on the left flank and curled a low cross that Welbeck slotted in from close range. Visiting England fans were still celebrating the equalizer in the closedroof arena when Caulker made it 2-1, slipping through a passive Swedish defense to get a foot on a free kick from Gerrard, who joined Billy Wright, Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore, Peter Shilton and David Beckham as the sixth player to reach 100 caps for England.
England had appeared in full control in the second half until Ibrahimovic leveled with a powerful volley and then put the home team ahead again with a low free kick inside the far post. His final goal stunned just about everyone in the 50,000-seat stadium, including Sweden coach Erik Hamren.
“The last one, I don’t know if you’re going to see another one like that in your life,” Hamren said. “It’s just incredible, really.” A raft of injuries meant England had to do without Wayne Rooney, Theo Walcott, Frank Lampard, and Tottenham trio Kyle Walker, Aaron Lennon, and Jermain Defoe.
Coach Roy Hodgson, who fielded three debutantes in the starting lineup, said he was pleased with his team’s performance until Ibrahimovic spoiled the evening for England.
“The fourth goal was the crowning glory,” Hodgson said. “It’s a wonderful goal to see on a football field, though I would rather have seen it against someone else.” Hart had a shaky match, misjudging a couple of key situations, including the foray outside the box that led to Ibrahimovic’s final goal.
The Sweden striker, who has often been criticized in the English press, was asked if he was especially pleased having scored four goals against England. “I enjoyed it, let’s put it that way,” he said.
What they said
► When I saw the keeper was out of his net, I tried to put it over him. It was a good try, and when it comes off it’s fantastic
- The man himself
► Sometimes you have to hold your hands up to an individual special performance and this was a world-class performance from a world-class player. It is the best goal I have seen live
- Steven Gerrard England captain
► Sometimes, you think you're watching a video game. Because it's not possible to do that — the fourth goal, for example
- Erik Hamren Sweden coach
► The fourth goal was the crowning glory. It's a wonderful goal to see on a football field, though I would rather have seen it against someone else
- Roy Hodgson England manager
► It was the perfect game. It was Zlatan against children. He has been criticised in England and this proves them all wrong
- Tobias Sana Sweden substitute
► If only the English FA could have given Ibrahimovic a cap or a run out before those pesky Swedes nabbed him...
- Joey Barton Marseille midfielder on Twitter
► Having now watched a repeat of THAT GOAL a couple of hundred times in the past hour or so, I hereby propose that they shut down the Friends Arena for ever so that no one else can sully it with lesser football in the future
- Andy Dawson in Daily Mirror