The British press has always downplayed the skills and accomplishment’s of Zlatan Ibrahimovic because he has never played well against an English team.
Well that all changed in Stockholm tonight as Ibra scored all four goals, including a goal of the season overhead kick, to give England boss Roy Hodgson his first defeat over 90 minutes as England manager.
After a pretty boring timid opening the game was brought to life on 20 minutes with Sweden’s first goal. Martin Olsson was too strong for Raheem Sherling and his cross was converted at the second attempt by Ibrahimovic, after Caulker had blocked his first effort.
Their lead lasted only 15 minutes when Ashley Young’s cross was converted Danny Welbeck.
The longer the first half went on, the stronger England got, and it was no surprise when they took the lead. Steven Gerrard, earning his 100th England cap, delivered a terrific which was touched in from close range by Caulker.
But Ibrahimovic was in one of his unplayable moods, and neither Cahill or Caulker could really contain him.
The game changed half-way through the second half when Hodgson took off Gerrard, Caulker and Johnson and brought on Jenkinson, Shawcross and Tom Huddlestone.
England never regained the swagger they displayed before the mass substitutions and no one was shocked when Ibra tied the score. Showing a great touch, Ibra, controlled Anders Svensson’s clipped pass on his chest, went past Ryan Shawcross and gave Hart no chance with a thunderous volley.
Much to England’s dismay Ibra was not finished, lining up a free-kick from distance and found the bottom right-hand corner with a low drive. Terrific free kick but questions will be asked about the positioning of Joe Hart.
Hart was at fault for Sweden and Ibra’s fourth, but that will be overlooked because of the audacity and brilliance of the goal. Hart tried to head clear a bouncing ball and the Paris Saint-Germain star scored with one of the candidates for goal of the season.
The most worrying point in the defeat for Hodgson could well have been the performance by Joe Hart. He has been struggling recently and England has no back-up to speak off. England need Hart to be playing at the level he was last year if they are to qualify for the World Cup in 2014.