Thursday, November 15, 2012
Acrobatic Ibrahimovic shoots down England
LONDON -- Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic highlighted the opening game at Friends Arena outside Stockholm with four goals, including a spectacular bicycle kick from 30 yards in a 4-2 victory over England on Wednesday night.
Ibrahimovic's one-man show overshadowed two high-profile matches between fierce European rivals, with the Netherlands and Germany drawing 0-0, and France coming from behind to beat Italy 2-1.
The prolific Lionel Messi was kept scoreless as Argentina was held 0-0 in Saudi Arabia, while Portugal, missing the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, surprisingly drew 2-2 in Gabon. Pedro Rodriguez scored twice to help Spain rout host Panama 5-1.
In East Rutherford, N.J, Neymar scored in the 64th minute and then skied a penalty kick well over the crossbar in the 81st, leaving Brazil with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Colombia.
At Marlins Park in Miami, Ideye Brown and Igiebor Nosa scored in a 5-minute span early in the second half to help Nigeria beat Venezuela 3-1 in an exhibition game.
It was the enigmatic Ibrahimovic who took the day's scoring honors with his acrobatic strike, described by England captain Steven Gerrard -- who made his 100th international appearance -- as "one of the best goals I've ever seen live."
"When I saw the goalkeeper was out I tried to put it against the goal, and luckily it went in," Ibrahimovic said. "It's both luck and skill."
The enigmatic Ibrahimovic punished England with a superb performance to mark the opening of Sweden's new national stadium, the Friends Arena.
After poking Sweden ahead in the 20th minute from close range, the striker tied it 2-2 by chesting down Anders Svensson's lofted pass and volleying it past goalkeeper Joe Hart.
Ibrahimovic's skimming free kick from 35 yards somehow beat Hart before the Sweden captain caused more embarrassment for the English by capping the victory with his memorable overhead kick.
"I don't know if you're going to see another one like that in your life," Sweden coach Erik Hamren said.
England's goals came from Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker in a four-minute span before halftime.
Brazil was playing at MetLife Stadium for the third time since the 2010 World Cup -- the Selecao has only had six games in Brazil during that span. But on a cool autumn night, with mass transit still limited following Superstorm Sandy, the match drew 38,624 and the top deck was completely empty.
The 20-year-old Neymar, who has emerged as Brazil's star as it prepares to host the 2014 World Cup, offset Juan Guillermo Cuadrado's 44th-minute goal for Colombia by using his quick feet to get around a defender. But then, after Pablo Armero pulled down Daniel Alves in the penalty area, Neymar had an embarrassing miss.
He took several steps to his left, then slowed in his approach and sent his penalty kick a good 15 yards over the crossbar and into the stands. Neymar's tongue was hanging as he retreated to midfield.
The Germans played a dull stalemate with the Netherlands in Amsterdam, with both countries electing to start fringe players because of injury or illness. Germany was looking for a third win over its bitter rival in 12 months, but Marco Reus missed a chance for the visitors in injury time.
"We played very well against one of the best teams in Europe," Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Italy slipped to its sixth consecutive friendly defeat when Bafetimbi Gomis scored in the 67th minute from Patrice Evra's pass.
Stephen El Shaarawy gave Italy the lead in Parma in the 35th minute with his first international goal, only for Mathieu Valbuena to equalize.
Luis Suarez scored in the second half to cap Uruguay's 3-1 win in Poland, but South American rival Argentina lacked finishing touches in Saudi Arabia, with Messi failing in his bid to set an outright record for the most goals for the country in a calendar year.
Messi shares the mark with Gabriel Batistuta with 12 goals.
"We didn't play a good match, from the beginning we didn't do the things we needed to do," Messi said. "We basically gave away the first half, and in the second we played a little bit better, but not much."
In Asian World Cup qualifiers, Japan beat Oman 2-1, Iraq edged Jordan 1-0, Uzbekistan took Iran 1-0, and Qata defeated Lebanon 1-0.
Visiting Japan won as Shinji Okazaki tapped in a late goal. The Japanese, who lead Asia Group B by eight points, were the dominant side in the first half and took the lead in the 20th minute when Hiroshi Kiyotake scored. Oman drew level in the 77th on a free kick from Ahmed Mubarak that slipped under the outstretched arm of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima.
Ahmed Hammadi netted the winner for Iraq with a blistering shot from outside the area in the 86th minute in a match played at Doha, Qatar due to security concerns in Iraq.
Also at Doha, a long-range goal from Uruguayan-born striker Sebastian Suria helped Qatar win. His 20-yard shot curled past keeper Abbas Hassan. The goal set off raucous celebrations among the home supporters, who are desperate for a good showing after Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup.
Ulugbek Bakaev got hold of a curling free kick from Server Djepararov to score the winner in the 71st minute for Uzbekistan at Iran. The win sends Uzbekistan to the top of Group A, a point ahead of South Korea, Iran and Qatar.
In Johannesburg, African Cup of Nations champion Zambia beat South Africa 1-0 in an exhibition game on Collins Mbesuma's 64th-minute strike.
After the match, two Zambia players were hurt when the African champion's team bus was stoned while leaving the Soccer City stadium. Goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene needed stitches in his head after the bus windows were shattered by "huge rocks" as the team left for its hotel, the Football Association of Zambia said. Midfielder Felix Katongo also was injured.