Ibrahimovic’s 93rd minute 30+ yard overhead bicycle volley sailing high and low over a no-man’s land placed Hart summed up England’s friendly against Sweden. It was all about final touches.
Resorting back to old habits and at the merciful wrath of 4-goal ‘Ibi’, England’s performance spiralled before they lost the game 4-2.
Ibrahimovic set himself up with such concentration. The result was mesmerising and jubilant for the Swedish crowd; a low-to-the-ground, slightly curving left off the direct line free kick that powerfully soared past the fully-stretched lanky arms of Hart to nestle into the right pocket of the net.
Breaking back and out of nowhere, Zlatan with up-most precision chested, controlled and struck a stunning volley; it was 2 all. A minute before Welbeck had nearly ran half the length of the pitch, along the left wing, before the ball was swotted away like a soup-fly to the closest yellow shirt.
With 15 minutes on the clock, the Three Lions were leading 2-1, England were motivated and grew in confidence mid-second half, even to the point of bringing on three have-a-go, youngling subs in the 73′ minute; Shawcross, Jenkinson and Huddlestone.
Two and a half year absentee Wilshere replaced Cleverley in the 61′ minute.
England controlled the match and ‘Stevie G’ clearly had an appetite for something spectacular. He took a few chances, including 30-yard left and right-footed volleys, forcing Swedish keeper Isaksson to make one blinding and power-absorbing save. The English were playing in behind the Swedes well, threatening to open up the defence further.
English fans started to chant the National Anthem with confidence, only it was Johnson who brought them back down to that sweet indoor earth rendering them silent at 43′ when he barged Larsson off the touchline. He should have been carded.
England for 20-minutes did seem to be playing well-fabricated football towards the end of the first half, but ultimately they were lucky. Their two goals weren’t world class shots, belting rockets or sensational free kicks, no. They were both scrappy, bundle-it-into-box, hog-the-goal line, delicate touches. At 38′, courtesy of a truly magnificent, corkscrewing right-to-left, up and down Gerrard cross (one like the old days that made his England name) débutante scorer Caulker dinked it in.
Three minutes earlier, the brilliant Sterling, who really was fantastic throughout, fed Ashley Young, this time from the left, who, to be fair for an unskilled player at the best of times, curved a low ball around the defence onto powerhouse and tall-framed Wellbeck’s dinky legs, who steered it home.
England’s poor show was down to several things. Joe Hart, by the skin of his teeth, got away with a monumental error of judgement when Kallstrom spooned a shot way over his open goal. Communication was absent as the ball ricocheted off one of his defenders inches in front of him unnecessarily. Cleverley missed an opportunity for a goal-scoring final touch after a midfield steal. Hot potato cheap corners were being given away with ease. Baines embarrassingly had poor contro,l letting the ball sail out of our half unpressurised. Johnson did not look up and belted a pass westward and out from the half-way line.
20 minutes in, English defence was wide open, Zlatan snuck in and thumped the underside of the roof-netting, 1-0 down. No surprises who gave away possession: Johnson. The already-strange indoor atmosphere, not dissimilar from an echoing lift, got yellow fever. Sweden who came back from 4-0 against Germany in Berlin looked steadfast, were defending well and chasing down the ball with haste.
Cahill could have also dabbed in a swooping corner after 15 minutes, but he did not and missed it instead. 7 minutes into the game Osman too failed to take advantage of a ‘dink’ opportunity as the scuffed shot hit the floor and rolled like a fat cheese into the feet of Isaksson.
The opening of the new national Swedish stadium in Stockholm and the second largest in Europe, the Friends Arena, was host to a friendly against England’s oldest rivals. Gerrard got his 100th cap, 3 youngsters made their English début and Roy had a point to prove.
England were beaten not by the Swedish team, but by Ibrahimovic’s titanic talent and two missed chances to nail the coffin with little goal-line touches.
Introducing the neat little app that’ll pay you to view content tailored to your interests:
ThisisFutbol.com are seeking new writers to join the team! If you’re passionate about football, drop us a line at “email@example.com” to learn more.