International Friendlies: HE IS ZLATAN!

Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe.

There are few superlatives you can shower upon Zlatan Ibrahimovic that he hasn’t already liberally bathed himself in.

Still, like everyone else with a vague interest in football and a deadline to meet this morning, we’ll give it a go.

Sweden 4-2 England

Steven Gerrard wore exclusive, pre-release Predator LZ’s to commemorate his 100th England game. Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe.

Footballers aren’t frequently lauded for their articulacy in post-match interviews, but Steven Gerrard, having spent much of his 100th game for England trying to nullify the threat presented by Paris St Germain and Sweden striker Ibrahimovic, summed it up as well as anyone has so far.

Sometimes you have to hold your hands up to a special individual performance, and that was a world-class performance from a world-class player. It was the best goal I have ever seen.

There was a sniff of something in the air at the Friendly Stadium last night, from the moment Big Zlatan exchanged passes with a young mascot across the centre circle. He’s known as a man with an extraordinary sense of self-confidence but for a second he seemed overwhelmed by the occasion, humbled even. Experienced Zlatan watchers (us)  suspected it wouldn’t last.

For once, we were right. Probably because we didn’t have money on it.

England tripped and stuttered their way across the awful pitch in the early stages, looking more like divot stampers at a polo match than an international team peppered with promising debutants, but they persisted and their hard work initially paid off – goals from Welbeck & Caulker saw England 2-1 up at half time.

Image: Michael Regan/Getty Images Europe.

Then the big man got properly involved. His second and third goals are unlikely to be remembered in detail by anyone other than Joe Hart, who by his own high standards, had a bit of a mare. The England No.1 was undone by Ibrahimovic’s beautiful first touch for the second and arguably unsighted for the free kick, but that hasn’t stopped rumblings in the mainstream press that an alternative should be considered.

There FA have demonstrated in recent years that they have no shortage of ways to self-harm, but surely even they aren’t going to be talked into unsettling the most promising keeper England have produced for decades? Are they?

Self-aggrandising copy apart, this night was about Sweden, and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Rarely does a player in modern football bear the weight of expectation so easily, and his fourth goal, an overhead kick from an angle about twenty-five yards out was simply outrageous, and has already been described by many as the “best goal ever“.

Ibrahimovic himself has already said it wasn’t the best goal he’s ever scored. But given what we know of him,  he would say that, wouldn’t he?

In Other News

Image via tumblr.

Elsewhere, Sergio Ramo got his Usain Bolt on as he celebrated scoring the fourth in Spain’s 5-1 battering of Panama, while understrength Germany and Netherlands sides played out a dull 0-0 draw. Sartorial menace Bafetimbi Gomis scored the winner in France’s 2-1 win over Italy, Scotland beat Luxembourg by the same scoreline and a Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal drew 2-2 with Gabon.

The rest you can read about here.

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