Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had his English critics in the past but he showed what a quality striker he is with four goals against England last night. What was so different from his performances against England from the past?
For years English football fans have knocked Zlatan Ibrahimovic when lists and conversations about the best strikers in the world come up. ‘I’ve never seen him have a good game’ has been a common saying but his performance for Sweden in the friendly against England shows that the striker’s recent move to PSG has benefited him and he’s never lost a single bit of his goalscoring prowess.
His presence in the 4-2 win over England was superb. He genuinely looked like a real threat whenever he received the ball and he made England pay with some of the best improvisational skills the history of the game has ever seen. For years people are going to be talking about his spectacular overhead kick from 30 yards out but even the toe poke for his first goal was a superb finish.
So what’s the difference when you consider how he’s played against England before? Well for starters, the occasion was set up for him. The match marked the occasion of the opening of Sweden’s new national stadium against a team they have had many battles with in the recent past. The stage was set and you can be the highest profile or most experienced player in the world and still feel that strong surge of inspiration.
Many football fans would also admit that he looked happier than he has been for a long time. This is not to say he didn’t enjoy his spells at Barcelona, AC Milan and other high profile clubs but he seems very calm and settled. Whether that is to do with his move to PSG over the summer is another debate for another day. Maybe he’s enjoying being the main man at both club and country which he hasn’t enjoyed at the previous clubs he’s signed for.
However, to suggest that having his ego stroked is the reason for his performance is a little bit naïve. He has always been a high quality striker but he has not always been first choice for his club side which has meant he’s under extra pressure when he plays for Sweden. His new role at a new club means he goes into international matches feeling good and feeling in form.
This was demonstrated by the goals he took. The first was a superb piece of goal poaching as he toe poked the ball home, his second was a superb piece of control and a powerful finish, his third was a great long range free kick and his fourth will be talked about for hundreds of years as arguably the greatest ever international goal; an overhead kick to lob the goalkeeper from 35 yards out. Had his confidence and form been down then not one of those goals may have been possible.
Belief was a big part of his performance last night. The other Swedish players supported Ibrahimovic well in terms of each attack. It was almost as though he believed he was going to score every single time he received the ball and this can make an already dangerous striker all the more spectacular. He’s won the Swedish Player of the Year Award for five years in a row and based on his four goals against England it’ll be a sixth at the end of the current season.