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Spectacular goal caps four-some night for Swede

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Henry Winter, Stockholm

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Could this be the greatest goal ever?

Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic seemingly defied gravity with this overhead kick to seal the game against England.

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JUST when the England fans started ironically serenading the pony-tailed Zlatan Ibrahimovic with ''you're just a s--- Andy Carroll'', the Swedish forward moved up a gear, adding to his first-half goal with three late gems, including a strike that defied geometry let alone belief.

Ibrahimovic's first was a poacher's finish, his second an emphatic shot, his third a 27-metre free kick. England had not conceded a hat-trick since Marco van Basten gave Tony Adams nightmares in 1988. It needed something special to go one step beyond that and Ibrahimovic delivered in spectacular style.

It was his fourth goal that will linger long in the memory, that will be saluted around the world. He was out on the right, Joe Hart's poor clearance dropping towards him. Hart, a bag of nerves in the second half, was off his line but the angle was still ludicrously tight.

Stunner ... Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his fourth goal.

Stunner ... Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his fourth goal. Photo: AFP

It needed technique, imagination and a sense of outrageous boldness to attempt what Ibrahimovic did, sending the ball back in with a sensational overhead kick. A beautiful goal capped a brutal end to the friendly for England, a first defeat for Roy Hodgson, as Sweden won 4-2. ''The fourth goal was extraordinary, but it was the second and third goals which cost us,'' Hodgson told ITV. ''For 70 minutes we were playing very well and we deserved to be in the lead, but we made changes and they took the initiative.''

With Steven Gerrard on the pitch, England played with urgency and there were moments of promise from Raheem Sterling, Steven Caulker and Leon Osman, but Gerrard's withdrawal removed organisation and resilience and Ibrahimovic pounced and pounced and pounced.

The giant striker, who rose to fourth in the all-time Swedish scoring list, drew a standing ovation from the Sweden dugout.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his third goal for Sweden.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates his third goal for Sweden. Photo: Reuters

''Sometimes, when he's doing these things, in training or in matches, you don't think it's possible,'' said Sweden coach Erik Hamren. ''Sometimes, you think you're watching a video game. Because it's not possible to do that - the fourth goal, for example.''

Said Gerrard, who made his 100th appearance for England: ''His performance was world class and he just scored one of the best goals I've seen live. It was his night.''

The 31-year-old Ibrahimovic said it was not his finest match for his country as he said he had played many great games for Sweden, but when asked how he would mark his international career out of 10 he had no hesitation: ''Ten,'' he replied.

After a surreal opening ceremony involving knights from a Monty Python sketch, a fake kick-off involving Ibrahimovic and two verses of the national anthem that totally foxed Hodgson's players, England had needed an uncertain half-hour before it finally got going. In that time, the visitors conceded to Ibrahimovic and it could have been worse such was the nervous nature of their defending.

Ibrahimovic struck after 20 minutes, injecting some life into a subdued, overly respectful home crowd, when he poked the ball past goalkeeper Hart after his initial effort was blocked by Caulker.

England tied the game in the 35th minute when Danny Welbeck put in a cross from Manchester United teammate Ashley Young. The visiting team took the lead three minutes later as Gerrard sent a curling free kick into the area that Caulker, one of six players making his England debut, knocked past goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson.

Ibrahimovic made it 2-2 in the 77th minute as he beat defender Ryan Shawcross to chest down a long ball and volley past Hart. He completed his hat-trick with six minutes left with a long free kick between Hart and the far post.

Then came the outrageous finale at Sweden's new stadium. Goals pay the rent and Ibrahimovic certainly chipped in with the overheads.

In other matches, France rallied to beat Italy 2-1, the US twice came from behind to tie Russia 2-2, and Germany and the Netherlands finished scoreless. Pedro Rodriguez scored twice as world and European champion Spain won 5-1 in Panama.

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