Zlatan this, Zlatan that.
Everyone is talking about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and his masterful four-goal performance for Sweden in their 4-2 international friendly victory over England on Wednesday.
It is certainly deserved. Ibrahimovic became the first person to ever score four goals in one match against England. The last time anyone had scored a hat-trick against England was Marco van Basten way back in Euro 1988.
Ibrahimovic's final goal was certainly quality.
While some, including Steven Gerrard, have called it "the best I've ever seen," I find that to be a bit of hyperbole. While it took quite a bit of skill and technique to make the shot, the goal was gaping open. Even Ibrahimovic admitted after the match that "it's both luck and skill."
"If you ask me, from the four goals which one that I like most, I think the first goal," Ibrahimovic said in this post-match press conference. "Because it's some kind of history goal, because it's the first goal in the new arena."
But Ibrahimovic's display overshadowed what should have been a monumental occasion for Gerrard. Gerrard made his 100th appearance for the England national team and put in a display that should be remembered as well.
When Gerrard left the pitch in the 75th minute in favor of Tom Huddlestone, England held a 2-1 advantage and were in control of the match. Gerrard was surgical in his delivery of set pieces. His curling free kick in the 37th minute landed just inside the six-yard box and out of range from Swedish goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson. Steven Caulker, who was making his England debut, tapped it in to give England the 2-1 lead.
Gerrard almost had another assist earlier in the match.
Gerrard took a free kick in the 16th minute that just eluded Gary Cahill, who had a chance to flick the ball past Isaksson. The Liverpool midfielder had a couple of quality shots on goal in the second half as well,
Gerrard also held together a very inexperienced midfield.
Leon Osman and Raheem Sterling were both making their England debuts, and Tom Cleverley had less than 10 England caps. In total, Gerrard and Osman led England with four shots each. The veteran earned a rating of 4.0/5.0 from Goal.com, the highest of any England player.
It all fell apart when Gerrard left the pitch.
Sweden and Ibrahimovic scored the next three goals in a span of 14 minutes. While the lineup was a mash of players who were making their debuts, like Ryan Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and Wilfred Zaha, or still inexperienced, like Jack Wilshere, Huddlestone and Daniel Sturridge, Gerrard's leadership would have been an asset in closing the game out.
In all, it was just a friendly that didn't mean much, except to be a grand occasion to open Sweden's new national stadium. But Gerrard's 100th cap deserved better, especially with the performance he put in.
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