Ibrahimovic’s 20th-minute opener on Wednesday made him the first player to score at Stockholm’s Friends Arena, but England threatened to spoil the party by pulling ahead through Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker.
Unfortunately for Roy Hodgon’s side, it proved nothing but the cue for Ibrahimovic to take matters into his own hands.
After chesting down Anders Svensson’s pass and volleying home a 77th-minute equalizer, he put Sweden ahead with a 30-metre free-kick and then served up the pièce de résistance with an extraordinary fourth goal in injury time.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart was drawn from his goal by a long ball but he could not get enough distance on his clearing header and Ibrahimovic capitalized to send an incredible bicycle kick into the unguarded net from 25 metres.
“When I got the long ball, I saw the goalkeeper come out, and I thought, ‘Should I go in for the duel, or wait for him to put it out?'” the Sweden captain told reporters.
“When he put it out, I had it in my mind to score — to try to score. I tried to put it in the goal and when I was on the ground, I saw a defender trying to get it, but it went in.”
Meanwhile, British tabloids had a field day in Thursday’s newspapers, with the Mail Online referring to the goal as “the greatest goal ever scored” and headlining Zlatan’s effort as “the goal from the Gods.”
The Daily Mirror went with “Take Zlat!” and The Sun headlined “Zlat’s Magic” calling the goal a “wonder strike”.
Ibrahimovic, however, did not regard the game as his best performance for Sweden, however.
“I think I’ve had many, many great games,” said the Paris Saint-Germain
“It was important to play a good game in the new arena. But if you ask me which goal I liked most, I’d say the first goal, because it was a historic goal — the first goal in the new arena.”
Ibrahimovic’s performance overshadowed Steven Gerrard’s 100th England appearance, but the Liverpool midfielder could not help but admire the Sweden striker’s display.
“I have been playing football a long time but Zlatan’s fourth goal is probably the best goal I have seen live,” he told BBC radio.
“I cannot pay a bigger tribute than that.”
Video clip of Zlatan’s ‘greatest goal’ (and his penalty goal beforehand)
Sweden coach Erik Hamrén said that Ibrahimovic’s fourth goal was “not possible”, and went on to praise the captain’s maturity.
“He’s been really, really good, especially with the young guys – he was their hero when they were growing up, and now they’re sitting beside him,” he said.
“Yesterday (Tuesday), after lunch, I saw him sitting with the three least experienced players; sitting and talking with them, and they were eating his words, listening so intently.”
Despite tasting defeat for the first time in his tenure as England coach, Hodgson expressed satisfaction with the performances of his six debutantes.
He also defended Hart after an uncharacteristically uncertain performance from the Manchester City goalkeeper.
“These things happen,” Hodgson said.
“The third goal got a slight deflection. On the fourth one, he got an unpleasant bounce — the ball really pitched up and he couldn’t get any purchase on the header — and it led to Zlatan scoring his acrobatic goal.
“But we’re not worried about Joe Hart. He’s a very good goalkeeper. Tonight (Wednesday) wasn’t one of his absolute best days, but this happens in football.
“Some of the other senior players had a great game. Steven Gerrard, Glen
Johnson, Leighton Baines — they all played exceptionally well.”