16 November 2012

Ibrahimovic's goal in context

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, seconds before he stunned the footballing world.

We've only just managed to get our breath back following Wednesday's memorable friendly meeting between Sweden and England in Stockholm.

England's team of young guns did reasonably well, but they were undone by the individual brilliance of one Swedish striker. The source of Sweden's 4-2 win was a four-goal tally from a certain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

The first two goals were just clinical. The third was a finely-drilled free-kick that caught out Joe Hart in the England goal. But the fourth... well, put it this way. There isn't a word in the English dictionary that can describe it.

It was the first minute of second-half injury-time, and Hart made an uncharacteristic error, coming out of his area to head away a long-ball into the path of Ibrahimovic.

The Paris Saint-Germain used his left leg to get him airborne, and then with his right-foot, he looped the ball into the goal, leaving Hart dumbfounded and thousands of Swedes delirious. It was the perfect end to the first ever game played at Stockholm's brand new Friends Arena, but it might as well be called the Zlatan Arena from now on.

The son of a Bosniak father and a Croatian mother, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the archetype of a modern multi-cultural Swede. However, he had a very rough childhood, which saw him drop out of school get into trouble with the law a number of times, but football saved a violent young Ibrahimovic from oblivion.

Ibrahimovic, who is often nicknamed 'Ibra' or otherwise known as plain Zlatan, has often been criticised in the past for being lazy and arrogant, and having an attitude problem that would make Mario Balotelli look like the model professional.

That said, you can't knock his record. The 31-year-old has an excellent record of 246 goals in 504 club matches, he's won nine league titles in three countries (although two of them with Juventus were later revoked), and he has cost over £150million in combined transfer fees.

And now, he will also be remembered for one incredible goal against England, which has been described by many people as the best ever scored in a professional football match. But is it?

You've got to put this into perspective. As brilliant as the goal was, in the end, it was only scored in a friendly - not a World Cup or UEFA Champions League Final, or even a competitive match. Also, scoring past a defence that includes players like Carl Jenkinson isn't exactly like climbing Mount Everest to world-class superstars of Ibrahimovic's talent.

Where you're from or who you support also plays a part in how you decide what one's the best you've seen. Most Swedes now consider Ibrahimovic's wonder goal to be unsurpassed, although Real Madrid supporters, for example, will have other thoughts. It's a bit like asking South Americans who the greatest footballer ever is - Brazilians will say PelĂ©, and Argentines will say Diego Maradona.

It was one of the greatest goals ever, but not the best in my opinion. Although I grudgingly regard Maradona's second against England in Mexico 1986 as being the number one of all-time, when it comes to judging goals, you can only really go by those you have actually seen in your lifetime.

Therefore, I have compiled a top ten list of the best goals I have seen since I began watching football way back in 1998:

10. Lionel Messi
BARCELONA vs Real Madrid, UEFA Champions League Semi Final (2011)
9. Thierry Henry
ARSENAL vs Tottenham Hotspur, Premier League (2002)
8. Wayne Rooney
MANCHESTER UNITED vs Newcastle United, Premier League (2005)
7. Lionel Messi
BARCELONA vs Getafe, La Liga (2007)
6. Ronaldinho
BRAZIL vs England, World Cup Quarter Final (2002)
5. Ryan Giggs
MANCHESTER UNITED vs Arsenal, FA Cup Semi Final Replay (1999)
4. Giovanni van Bronckhorst
HOLLAND vs Uruguay, World Cup Semi Final (2010)

3. Paolo Di Canio
WEST HAM UNITED vs Wimbledon, Premier League (2000)

2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
SWEDEN vs England, Friendly (2012)

1. Zinedine Zidane
REAL MADRID vs Bayer Leverkusen, UEFA Champions League Final (2002)

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