“Goal of the Century!”
“Did You See That?”
Newspaper headline writers across Europe had a field day Wednesday after Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s gravity-defying, acrobatic 30-yard bicycle kick in a friendly against England. Ibrahimovic scored all four of Sweden’s goals in the 4-2 win, but it was that spectacular overhead strike in stoppage time that was an instant internet sensation and trending topic on Twitter.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out at my blog, Total Futbol.
By Thursday morning, it was being compared to some of the best goals in history, such as Brazil’s winning goal by Carlos Alberto in the 1970 World Cup and Diego Maradona’s shot against England in the 1986 World Cup quarterfinal.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart had just cleared the ball Wednesday with a header that sailed in Ibrahimovic’s direction outside the penalty area. The 6-5 Swede jumped with his back to the goal, caught the ball six feet in the air with his foot, cranked it over his head and it bounced past the keeper.
When he realized it went in, he seemed as incredulous as everyone watching.
“It’s probably the goal I enjoyed the most, of all the goals I’ve scored for the national team,” Ibrahimovic said.
England captain Steven Gerrard told reporters he has never seen a more impressive goal.
“Sometimes you have to hold your hands up to a special individual performance,” Gerrard told reporters. “And that was a world-class performance from a world-class player. It was the best goal I have ever seen. The best before that was Wayne Rooney’s [for Manchester United against Manchester City]. Everyone knows how special that one was, but this one tonight, an overhead kick from 25 yards when the ball is six feet in the air … well, only certain players can do that, and he is a special player.
“It was one of the best individual performances I have ever seen, and his night.”
Unfortunately for Ibrahimovic, it won’t be in the running for FIFA Goal of the Year. FIFA had announced its 10 candidates for best goal earlier Wednesday. (Memo to FIFA: Next time, wait until Dec. 31!)
Among the goals on the list: Neymar’s shot for Santos against Internacional in March, after he dribbled from midfield and beat three defenders; Lionel Messi’s goal for Argentina against Brazil, and Colombian star Radamel Falcao’s scissor kick for Atletico Madrid against America de Cali.
All impressive, but none as breathtaking as Ibra’s.
“Outrageous, acrobatic and touched with genius … Zlatan scores ‘the greatest ever,’ ” according to The Daily Mail.
Best ever? Let’s not get carried away. There have been countless goals equally exciting, and some of those in World Cup and Champions League games under more pressure. But certainly, his goal was one of the best in recent memory.
Other notable goals include George Weah’s weaving end-to-end run for AC Milan against Verona in 1996, Zinedine Zidane’s volley in the 2001 Champions League final between Real Madrid and Bayer Leverkusen, Pelé’s goal against Sweden in the 1958 World Cup final, Marco Van Basten’s volley for the Netherlands in the 1988 Euro Final against Soviet Union, Messi’s 2007 goal for Barca against Getafe when he dribbled past six defenders, and Rooney’s scissor-kick volley for Manchester United against Manchester City last year.
Fans can vote for FIFA 2012 Goal of the Year at FIFA.com through Nov. 29.
• United States-China: Tickets for the U.S. women’s match against China on Dec. 15 in Boca Raton went on sale Saturday. The match will be played at FAU Stadium and is the 10th and final game of the U.S. WNT Fan Tribute Tour.
Tickets are available through ussoccer.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, at all Ticketmaster ticket centers throughout South Florida (including Walmart stores) and at the Wally Sanger Owl Club Center ticket office on the Florida Atlantic University campus.
• Thumbs up: There hasn’t been much good news out of Marlins headquarters these days, but Marlins Park did an excellent job hosting its first soccer game Wednesday, a friendly between Venezuela and Nigeria. A spirited crowd of 13,000-plus watched as Nigeria won 3-1. You could see some of the red dirt below the turf, but the makeshift field seemed to play nicely. The courtyard on the west side of the stadium served as the perfect spot for a postgame Venezuelan dance party.
I have always said, and continue to say, that the Marlins Park location is perfect for soccer. Looking forward to more matches there in the future.