Ibrahimovic reveals full repertoire of skills
Sweden 4 England 2By the end, Roy Hodgson had given six different players their debuts. Leon Osman, Raheem Sterling and Steven Caulker all began the match while Carl Jenkinson, Ryan Shawcross and Wilfried Zaha were introduced in the second half. Each of them will have learned a valuable lesson about football at this level and it is that, when there is someone with Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s talent around, it can be a harsh classroom.
Ibrahimovic seemed determined to do everything he could to upstage Steven Gerrard on the night of his 100th cap and he finished a remarkable performance with all four Sweden goals. The fourth in particular, an acrobatic overhead volley, was the kind of rare brilliance that very few players are capable of producing.
The third wasn’t too shabby either, a free-kick from over 25 yards, and England just have to be grateful the Paris St-Germain striker was not on this form when the sides met at Euro 2012.
Hodgson’s team had led 2-1 midway through the second half, with goals from Caulker and Danny Welbeck, and looked on course for their first win in Sweden since 1965.
What happened after that turned the night into something of an ordeal even if there were some positives, too, for the beaten side.
Youngsters like Sterling will be better for the experience while Leighton Baines impressed as he deputised for Ashley Cole.
They showed good character after initially going behind. It was a soft goal to concede. Ibrahimovic’s finish, however, was a beauty. Martin Olsson had started the move, dispossessing Sterling then breaking forward, exchanging passes with Mathias Ranegie and sending a low cross into the penalty area.
Ibrahimovic’s first effort came back to him off Caulker. The second was a demonstration of why he is so revered in Sweden, an old-fashioned toe-poke that was still rising as it arrowed into the top left-hand corner of Joe Hart’s goal.
England had threatened only sporadically until that point but after that, however, their response was hugely impressive.
After 35 minutes, Ashley Young broke on the left wing and his cross was curled into the six-yard area and Welbeck volleyed in at the far post.
Three minutes after the equaliser, Gerrard stood over a free-kick on the right wing. The delivery was sumptuous and Caulker slid in at the back post to score from close range.
England looked pretty comfortable by the time Hodgson started the whirr of substitutions by bringing on Jack Wilshere and Daniel Sturridge for Cleverley and Young.
But Ibrahimovic was always a menace to England’s defence. After 78 minutes Anders Svensson sent a long ball through the middle and Ibrahimovic cushioned the ball on his chest and, in one movement, volleyed past Hart.
The striker was simply brilliant. The hat-trick came in the 84th minute, from a free-kick rifled into the bottom corner, and the outstanding moment arrived in stoppage time. Hart came out of his area to head a ball clear but he did get enough on it and Ibrahimovic acrobatically returned it with interest into an empty net from a seemingly impossible position.