WASHINGTON, November 16, 2012 — Zlatan Ibrahimovic, take a bow. We applaud you.
The tall Swedish forward gave us a goal to remember in Sweden’s 4-2 win over England on Wednesday night. Some are calling in the greatest goal ever. It certainly was a thing of beauty that made one gasp.
England goalie Joe Hart, way outside his 18-yard box, like a soldier caught in no-man’s land, failed to clear the ball with a header. Instead, the keeper headed the the ball aimlessly high into the air. It was ideal bait for the predatory skills of the gangly Swede.
Suddenly, Ibrahimovic, with his back to goal, was airborne with the ease of an acrobat. He struck the ball with his right foot over his head with a stylish bicycle kick, sending it looping into the England net.
The goal was an act of genius. It was risky, difficult and visionary.
It was a moment when mind and body fussed; when desire and action melded; when purpose and result became one. The instant it went into the net it was a history-making moment.
Ibrahimovic celebrated the goal with abandon. Standing like an ancient Native-American chieftain, who had just downed a buffalo with his bow, “Zlatan The Great” tore off his yellow shirt, displaying the body-art on his tattooed back, which includes dragons and a giant feather. He waved the shirt above his head. The moment was his. Four great goals in a game and topped off with a beauty.
The goal has become the talk around the soccer world this week. It was replayed time and time again on TV screens and digital devices in all corners of the globe. The New York Times— not known for its lavish coverage of soccer — devoted half a page to the spectacle with photos galore. Twitter was lit up and taxi drivers in Hong Kong, Beijing, Berlin and London, discussed its sheer brilliance with willing-to-listen passengers.
Was it a better goal than Diego Maradona’s against England at the 1986 World Cup, when the Argentine dribbled around six England players? Probably not. But it might be the best goal of the 21st Century so far.
For 20 years John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon
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