Ibrahimovic scored three times in the final 15 minutes last night, including a long overhead kick, as Sweden celebrated the opening of its new national stadium in Stockholm. England Captain Steven Gerrard made his 100th appearance for his team, becoming the fifth player to reach the milestone.
“His performance was world class and he just scored one of the best goals I’ve seen live,” Gerrard said of Ibrahimovic in an interview with ITV. “It was his night.”
France rallied to beat Italy 2-1, the U.S. twice came from behind to tie Russia 2-2, and Germany and the Netherlands finished scoreless among other exhibition games in Europe. Pedro Rodriguez scored twice as World and European champion Spain won 5-1 in Panama.
Ibrahimovic’s late goals at the Friends Arena handed England its first match loss under manager Roy Hodgson. The Paris Saint-Germain striker opened the scoring in the 20th minute when he poked the ball past goalkeeper Joe Hart after his initial effort was blocked by Steven 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.
Ibrahimovic then closed the scoring in spectacular fashion in stoppage time as Hart raced out of his area to clear a ball. The goalkeeper’s header went straight up in the air and Ibrahimovic, with his back to goal, sent an overhead kick from 25 yards straight into the net.
“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.”
Bafetimbi Gomis came off the bench to score in the 67th minute and give France the away win against Italy in Parma. It was Italy’s fifth straight defeat in exhibition matches.
Substitute Mix Diskerud scored in second-half stoppage time in Krasnodar as the U.S. tied Russia, which remains unbeaten in six matches under coach Fabio Capello. Russia led twice on goals by Fedor Smolov and Roman Shirokov either side of Michael Bradley’s 20-yard volley in the 76th minute.
“The way our team fought back twice after being down a goal was great and it showed a lot of character,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said in comments distributed by U.S. Soccer. “This is a young team, and a team that is growing.”
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez scored as Uruguay won 3-1 in Poland, Didier Drogba’s goal helped Ivory Coast past Austria 3-0 and Jose Holebas’s first-half goal gave Greece a 1-0 win against Ireland in Dublin.
Jordan Rhodes scored both goals as Scotland beat Luxembourg 2-1 in its first game since Craig Levein was fired as coach. Bill Stark led Scotland tonight in place of Levein, who was let go last week after two losses and two draws in World Cup qualifying.
In Panama City, David Villa, Sergio Ramos and Markel Susaeta, in his international debut, also scored for Spain as the top-ranked team ended 2012 unbeaten.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Chris Elser at email@example.com.