Ten out of ten

Goal of the day, goal of the month, goal of the season, goal of the decade, goal of the century, call it what you like, but the accolades have been flooding in for Steven Caulker’s short-range shinner during Englandf’s 4-2 defeat to Sweden.

No, of course, the goal everyone is talking about is Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder-strike for Sweden aganst England. There were several to choose from, including the second, which ended Ryan Shawcross’s international career at the moment it began, but the general consensus was that the fourth was the pick of the bunch.

Clearly it was a brilliant goal, a fitting climax to an outrageous display of virtuosity that appeared to be aimed at silencing those sceptics, many of them English, who doubted his place in the pantheon of modern football greats. But, when the dust settles, have we learned anything about Ibrahimovic the player that we didn’t know already?

It’s reasonable to surmise that no other player in the world would have scored such a goal, largely due to the fact that no one else would have tried it. To score such a goal requires phenomenal technique, the imagination to conceive it, the audacity to attempt it, a complete disregard for the orthodox and, some would argue, the needs of the team. It was almost like Ibrahimovic and this goal were made for each other. The fact that it was scored in the closing moments of a meaningless friendly match, reinforces the belief among the cynics that this will be his defining moment as a footballer: a big player in the small games, yet a small player in the big games.

We’ll leave the last word to the man himself. He is, after all, the first player to ever score four against England.

Asked by an interviewer: “What mark would you give yourself out of 10 for your international career?” Ibrahimovic replied: “Ten.”

In the shop window

Luis Suarez is rarely out of the news and this morning emerged a number of reports suggesting that the Liverpool striker will be the subject of a £40 million bid from Manchester City in the January transfer window.

Or will he? Because no sooner had reports began circulating that City denied there was any substance to the report. Given their embarrassment of riches up front, one cannot see why City would want to sign another striker, lest they wish to coin a new term to describe their spending policy: a mortification of riches.

Mirror journalist Simon Mullock has been tweeting about the speculation, noting that City are not best pleased to be linked with Suarez and suggesting think that Liverpool are trying to create a bidding war for a player they are looking to offload.

Simon Mullock ‏‪@MullockSMirror

Lot of anger at the Etihad about being linked with Suarez. MCFC think LFC are trying to create a market for their most prized asset.”

Goals of the day not scored by Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Say what you like about the relevance of international friendly matches, but last night’s games did supply us with a number of wonderful goals.

Matthieu Valbuena scored a marvellous solo effort in France’s 2-1 victory over Italy.

Neymar produced one of his trademark moments of brilliance to earn a draw for Brazil against Colombia.

Or what about Armenia’s Aras Ozbiliz who produced a wonderful finish against Lithuania.

Finally, Nigeria’s Nosa Igiebor unleashed a stupendous long-range volley against Venezuela.

Quote of the day

“That’s the way it is with the English. If you score against them you’re a good player, if you don’t score against them you’re not a good player. I remember Lionel Messi before the 2009 Champions League final for Barcelona. Then he scored against Manchester United and suddenly he was the best player in the world. Maybe now they’ll say something like that about me.”

He was never short of self-confidence but after that goal, there’s a danger that Zlatan Ibrahimovic might become insufferable.

Kung fu fighting

Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t the only striker capable of producing a stunning acrobatic overhead kick. Here’s Gaston Cellerino of Union La Calera demonstrating amazing agility against Wanderers. Unfortunately, Cellerino has just been sent off and his flying kick is aimed straight at the head of opposing goalkeeper Mauricio Viana.

Keeping it in the family

Christmas should be fun in the Gazzayev household this year. Now that father Valery has sacked son Vladimir as coach of Russian Premier League side Alania Vladikavkaz.

Former Russia and CSKA Moscow manager Valery Gazzayev sacked his son Vladimir, and to rub salt in the wound, installed himself as the new boss.

Vladimir Gazzayev was named coach of Alania last year after his father was appointed the club’s president and this year guided Vladikavkaz back to the top flight after they spent the previous season in the second division.

Vladimir, who at 32 was the youngest coach in Russia’s top flight, has been shown the door following a run of ten matches without a win, which has left Alania second from the bottom halfway through the season. I suppose sacking is the naughty step for the grown-up son.

Valery, who led Alania to their first and only Russian league title in 1995, will remain Alania’s president by combining the two jobs. If results don’t pick up we are left with the tantalising prospect of him sacking himself.

Team spirit evaporates

Former German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann says the social media revolution is undermining players’ ability to communicate with each other on the pitch.

Lehmann is currently doing his coaching badges, and he explained:  “When you are not talking properly and you have to think and react quickly to a teammate, it’s difficult when you have the mentality of always having a few seconds more to reflect a little bit longer before typing in something.

“I believe this is having a major impact now on communication.

“The players may be intelligent but they have lost the art of quick language.

“Being on their little gadgets all the time means they are less capable of giving quick and fast commands on the pitch.”

It’s all a far cry from Lehmann’s playing days when he and fellow German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn got on like a house on fire.

“I didn’t know we were supposed to talk,” Lehmann said in 2004. “I don’t have a 24-year-old girlfriend. I have a different life.” His comments referred to Kahn’s affair with a Munich barmaid that started when his wife was pregnant and made headlines in Germany for weeks.

Sticks and stones

Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene needed stitches to a cut after rocks were thrown at the team bus in Johannesburg, the Football Association of Zambia said on Thursday.

The incident came as the Zambia team were leaving Johannesburg’s Soccer City on Wednesday, after their 1-0 win over 2013 African Nations Cup hosts South Africa in a friendly international.

Two teenage boys were arrested and face a charge of malicious damage to property, police said. Two others are still being sought.

“They stoned the bus as it was leaving the stadium,” said Africa Cup of Nations organising committee spokesman Sipho Sithole.

Bus windows were smashed, sending shards of glass onto the players, Zambian officials added.

The Zambian Football Association tweeted in the early hours of Thursday morning: “Very sad that Zambian bus was stoned and Kennedy  Mweene sustained a head injury. Has had stitches and is ok, but the  incident was shameful.”

The incident comes as an embarrassment to South African officials who used the match as a dry run for the Nations Cup , which the country hosts from January 19 to February 10.

Mweene was the hero of Zambia’s shock Nations Cup win earlier this year, saving penalties in the Final shoot-out and even scoring one himself.

Miss of the day

It’s not bad thing to be brought back down to earth once in a while so last night’s penalty miss by Neymar may ultimately help keep the youngster grounded in the months and years to come. The same, alas, cannot be said for the ball, which on its current trajectory won’t be coming back down to earth any time soon.

Goals, goals, goals

There’s no escaping great goals today with FIFA releasing the candidates for the Puskas Award for the best goal of the year – well, the year that ended November 13, that is.

Neymar, who won the award last year, is again in contention, but there is no place for the goal they’re all talking about because the shortlist was issued prior to last night’s matches.

The shortlist will be reduced to three when a first round of public voting on FIFA’s website ends on 29 November, and the award, in honour of Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas, will be handed out at the Ballon d’Or gala on 7 January, 2013.


Agyemang Badu – for Ghana against Guinea, 1 February

Hatem Ben Arfa – for Newcastle United against Blackburn Rovers, 7 January

Radamel Falcao – for Atletico Madrid v America de Cali, 19 May

Eric Hassli – for Vancouver Whitecaps v Toronto FC, 16 May

Olivia Jimenez – for Mexico v Switzerland, 22 August

Gaston Mealla – for Nacional Potosi v The Strongest, 29 January

Lionel Messi – for Argentina v Brazil, 9 June

Neymar – for Santos v Internacional, 7 March

Moussa Sow – for Fenerbahce v Galatasaray, 17 March

Miroslav Stoch – for Fenerbahce v Genclerbirligi, 3 March

Here are the goals: