England in awe of Ibrahimovic supergoal (and his three others)
'The best goal I have ever seen live,' says Steve Gerrard as England go down 4-2 in Stockholm
Sweden 4 England 2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic single-handedly destroyed England on Wednesday evening and the coup de grace was a goal of breathtaking brilliance. Having already scored a hat-trick, the Swedish striker struck a 35-yard overhead kick to become first player to score four goals against England.
It was a stunning strike, one that left England in awe. Manager Roy Hodgson described it as "something extraordinary", while captain Steve Gerrard declared: "It is the best goal I have ever seen live. I cannot pay a bigger tribute than that. An overhead kick from that distance when the ball is six feet in the air — only certain players can do that."
With the exception of the Euro 2012 penalty shootout defeat to Italy, this was England’s first loss over 90 minutes for the Three Lions since Hodgson took charge in April. It was also a miserable way for Gerrard to celebrate winning his 100th cap.
Nonetheless the England manager said he was satisfied with what he’d seen for most of the game. "I thought for the first 70 minutes of the game we were playing very well and deserved to be leading," he said. "There were a lot of positives to take."
One of those positives was the performance of centre-back Steven Caulker, one of six England debutants, who gave the visitors the lead on 38 minutes after Ibrahimovic’s opening goal had been cancelled out by Danny Welbeck’s sharp volley.
With 17-year-old Liverpool winger Raheem Sterling also impressing on his first appearance for England, Hodgson’s men looked set for victory – until Ibrahimovic turned superman.
First he volleyed Anders Svensson’s cross past a diffident Joe Hart to level the scores on 77 minutes. Then, seven minutes later, he put Sweden ahead with a skidding free-kick and on the stroke of full-time he scored the goal that football will never forget.
Asked about the strike, the 6ft 5in Swede replied: "I don’t know what went through my head… I saw the goalkeeper come out and I was thinking should I go in a duel or wait for him to put it out? When he headed it I had it in my mind I’d try and score. I hit it and, when I was on the ground, saw it bounce in."
But it wasn’t that goal that Ibrahimovic picked as the favourite of his four. "I liked the first one more," he said late. "It was an historic goal, the first in the new arena." England were indeed the first visiting nation to play in Stockholm’s 50,000-seat Friends Arena.
The misery wasn’t finished for England even after the final whistle. Word soon reached Roy Hodgson that Montenegro had beaten San Marino 3-0 in their 2014 World Cup qualification match. The result means Montenegro are now two points clear of England at the top of Group H with the two sides sharing the same goal difference.
Hodgson, who was born looking on the bright side, remained upbeat. "Me and my coaching staff learned an awful lot today about a lot of players, and a lot of the things we learned were very positive," he said. "We're looking forward to a bright 2013."