Sweden vs. England  4 - 2


Baines in awe of Ibrahimovic

15 November 2012 07:11

England defender Leighton Baines paid tribute to Zlatan Ibrahimovic after he stole the show in Sweden's 4-2 friendly win over England.

Ibrahimovic scored all four of Sweden's goals in Wednesday's friendly in Solna, including a spectacular overhead kick for the fourth.

Baines said he was in awe of the PSG striker's performance.

"It was one of those special moments (Ibrahimovic's fourth) you are not going to see many of those and sometimes you have just got to applaud people like that," the Everton man said.

"He is a fantastic player and it was his night tonight, fair play to him."

Baines said the turf at the brand new Friends Arena was less than ideal, but said he had experienced similar conditions when the new Wembley Stadium pitch was laid.

"It was not perfect, obviously it is a new stadium and the pitch was laid fairly late in the process leading up to the game so it wasn't quite as good as it could be," he said.

"But we have had those problems early on at Wembley and now we have a fantastic pitch there now, in time I am sure it will be alright."

Baines' club team-mate Leon Osman made his debut for England in the match, and he was also impressed with Ibrahimovic's performance.

"There are mixed emotions, I am delighted to have made my debut and to have played 90 minutes for my country, how could I be happier, but it is tinged with a bit of sadness that I was on the losing side today," Osman said.

"He (Ibrahimovic) seemed really up for the game tonight and when a player of that quality is up for a game it is difficult to stop them."


Hodgson refuses to blame Hart

15 November 2012 00:55

England manager Roy Hodgson is refusing to blame goalkeeper Joe Hart for his role in the Three Lions' 4-2 defeat to Sweden.

Hodgson said pointing the finger at his goalkeeper would be too easy, insisting that it does not matter whose fault the 'extraordinary' goal was.

PSG star Zlatan Ibrahimovic undoubtedly stole the show with an incredible performance, scoring all four of his team's goals, but Hart could have perhaps done better for at least two of them.

The Manchester City man got a hand to Ibrahimovic's second, looked positionally suspect for his third and produced a very poor headed-clearance just before the 31-year-old spectacularly bicycle-kicked in his fourth.

"You can always blame goalkeepers for those things, but it was a bit disappointing to concede a goal of course, when a shot's coming in from that distance," Hodgson said.

"I'll have to see it again on the video replay. I certainly wouldn't be prepared to start casting aspersions on the goalkeeper or proportioning blame. That doesn't matter.

"All goals are mistakes somewhere along the line; the thing is what you do during the course of the 94 minutes, and I thought during the 94 minutes today we did some very good things."

Hodgson also hailed Ibrahimovic's 'extraordinary' fourth goal but admitted the second and third affected his team badly despite having the better of the match, in his opinion.

"There's no doubt the fourth goal was something really extraordinary. Of course that put the tin lid on the game, but it was the second and third goals that cost us a victory here."

"But I thought for long periods of the game, certainly 70 minutes of the game, I thought we were actually playing very well and deserved to be leading.

"I thought we were very dangerous but of course I was quite anxious to look at a few players in this game, and maybe the changes at the end and the second goal gave them more initiative, and we ended up losing.

"There are a lot of positives to take from the game for me," he said.

Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, said he was thrilled with his strike, more so because it came against quality opposition in England.

"I think it was a nice goal, I enjoyed it very much even if it was only a friendly game," the Swede said.

"It was a nice goal. I've scored a couple of nice goals in my career but in the national team I don't think I've scored four goals before. Maybe in one or two games, but not against a good opponent like England.

"When I got the long ball the goal-keeper was out and I was thinking shall I go in for the ball or should I wait for him to put it out and when he put it out I had it in my mind that I will score, or try to score."


Ibrahimovic nets four as Sweden beat England

14 November 2012 23:00

Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted four goals, including a stunning fourth as Sweden came from behind to claim a 4-2 victory England in Stockholm.

Roy Hodgson handed debuts to three men with Steven Caulker, Leon Osman and Raheem Sterling all featuring, while captain Steven Gerrard became only the sixth man to win 100 England caps.

After a low-key start by both sides it was perhaps fitting that Ibrahimovic opened the scoring in Sweden's brand new Friends Arena after 20 minutes.

The goal came from a quick counterattack after Sterling was caught in possession just inside the Sweden half. Mathias Ranegi then drove forward and found Martin Olsson on the left who crossed for Ibrahimovic inside the area.

Ibrahimovic's initial shot was blocked but the Paris Saint-Germain striker was first to react, poking past Joe Hart and into the roof of the net for the first goal in the new stadium.

Yet after a lacklustre start the visitors slowly came to life and equalised 10 minutes before the break. Sterling began the move with a great ball out wide to Ashley Young.

The Manchester United winger’s cross into the box was inviting and duly stabbed home first time by Danny Welbeck - the striker’s fifth shot on target for his country and, impressively, his fifth goal.

And just three minutes later the visitors were ahead. Again Sterling was involved, drawing a foul on the edge of the area.

Up stepped captain Gerrard with another fine delivery, who swung a ball into the far post where Caulker was on hand to side foot home from close range under pressure from two defenders for a debut goal and a half-time lead.

England continued where they had left off after the break with Young inches away from a third goal and there were even more reason for visiting fans to cheer on the hour mark when Jack Wilshere made his long-awaited return to international football.

The Arsenal midfielder's arrival was swiftly followed by Carl Jenkinson, Tom Huddlestone and Ryan Shawcross yet the substitutions appeared to have disrupted England with Ibrahimovic equalising within minutes of the trio’s arrival.

A simple pass from substitute Anders Svensson found the striker unmarked in the box and he struck a sweet volley past Hart to level the scores with his 37th international goal.

Ibrahimovic was not finished there. With just five minutes remaining, Sweden were awarded a free kick some 25 yards out. There was never any question over who was going to take the kick, Ibrahimovic duly stepped up and fired it low, and past Hart into the corner of the goal for his hat trick.

The game was won, and the headlines written, but there was still time for Ibrahimovic to provide the outstanding moment of the match.

With 90 minutes on the clock, a weak-clearing header by Hart fell to the striker who grabbed his fourth of the night in unforgettable style with an overhead kick from more than 30 yards.


Gerrard earns Ibra praise

13 November 2012 18:54

Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic sees Steven Gerrard as unlike any other English other player ahead of the Liverpool star's 100th England cap.

Sweden will attempt to nullify the 32-year-old on his landmark appearance when Erik Hamren's side welcome England in a friendly in Stockholm on Wednesday.

And the PSG attacker has praised Gerrard's loyalty towards his club side after he recently passed the 600-game mark for the Merseyside outfit.

"I think Steven Gerrard is a fantastic player," Ibrahimovic said.

"He has been loyal to his club, he has won some big trophies with the club. He always plays at a high level when he is not injured.

"He is a very good person to have as a team-mate in your team. He always gives 200 percent, is a good fighter and has good skills and a good touch with the ball also.

"He feels more like an international player rather than a normal English player.

"English players have big hearts, always fighting, very aggressive, but for me Gerrard feels more international. He has more skills than the normal player."

Hamren also praised Gerrard particularly for his unique ability to read the game and range of long passes.

"I really like him as a player. He has something extra. I'm sorry he has had some injuries which have maybe stopped his top level," Hamren said.

"But when he is not injured, he is a top player because of his skills to read the game and his skills to make the passes, especially the long ones."


International friendly preview: Sweden v England

13 November 2012 12:22

England will be looking to finish the year on a high when they travel to Sweden for an international friendly on Wednesday.

Roy Hodgson's side have enjoyed a successful 2012, despite crashing out at the quarter-final stage of the European Championships in June to Italy.

England have been beaten just once in regular time this year and that was way back in February when they lost 3-2 to Holland in a friendly at Wembley.

Despite their recent unbeaten run, England fans still won't be confident that their team has done enough to ensure direct qualification for the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.

England are on top of their qualifying group with eight points, but Montenegro sit one point behind and have the luxury of a game in hand.

That is why England fans will be hoping for a good performance from their side in Stockholm.

Sweden have a battle on their hands to get through their qualifying group, with powerhouse Germany currently three points ahead of them.

The Swedes do have a game in hand on the Germans, however, but may still have to rely on getting through to the World Cup finals via the qualification play-offs.

England had not beaten Sweden for 43 years before their 1-0 win at Wembley last November, and they followed that success with a 3-2 triumph in the group stages of the European Championships in June.

Andy Carroll, Theo Walcott and Danny Welbeck were on target for England that night in Kiev, but only one of those players is likely to be action this time around.

Carroll is out of favour with Hodgson, while Walcott was forced out of the squad earlier this week through injury.

Wayne Rooney, Jonjo Shelvey, Kyle Walker and Aaron Lennon have also withdrawn from the squad, leaving Hodgson with what should be a youthful looking side.

Crystal Palace ace Wilfried Zaha and Arsenal defender Carl Jenkinson are all expected to feature, while Tottenham's Tom Huddlestone is also in the squad.

And we should see some goals on Wednesday in the opening of the new Friends Arena in Stockholm, given Sweden scored four times in their most recent international - a 4-4 draw with Germany.


Sturridge ready to reward Hodgson

12 November 2012 20:28

England striker Daniel Sturridge is hoping to repay the faith shown in him by Roy Hodgson when the Three Lions take on Sweden on Wednesday.

The 23-year-old has not started a Premier League match since May, with Fernando Torres being favoured in a lone striking berth by Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo.

However, this did not prevent him from earning a place in Hodgson's 23-man squad and he is keen to prove himself deserving of a call-up.

"It's been great to be involved and great for the manager to show a vote of confidence in me to pick me for this friendly," he told reporters.

"It's great to be in the position I am now where I am still involved in the England squad even though I am not playing regularly and for the manager to show huge faith me.

"If you are not starting but you are good enough, the manager will pick you. That is the great thing about the manager.

"If he believes in you and he believes you are good enough, whether you are starting for your club or not, you will get your opportunity.

"I want to thank him for picking me for this squad and hopefully I will be able to repay him."


Gerrard cleared for Sweden friendly

12 November 2012 19:46

Steven Gerrard will travel with England ahead of Wednesday's friendly against Sweden following a scan on a minor knee injury.

There had been fears that the 32-year-old would miss the clash after taking a knock to his knee during Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.

But the Reds star is now set to mark a century of caps in Stockholm, joining a list containing the likes of David Beckham, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton.

An FA statement reads: "Steven Gerrard has been cleared to travel with the England squad to Sweden having undergone a precautionary scan on Monday afternoon.

"The England captain reported to the team hotel following Liverpool's 1-1 draw with Chelsea, and having received positive news is set to win his 100th cap against Sweden on Wednesday evening in Stockholm."

There are also a number of players who are expected to make their first appearance for the senior side, as Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Leon Osman have all been included in Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad.


Osman takes England selection in his stride

12 November 2012 18:44

Everton midfielder Leon Osman never gave up hope of receiving an England call-up.

The 31-year-old was announced as part of Roy Hodgson's 23-man squad for Wednesday's friendly clash with Sweden in Stockholm.

And while international recognition has been a long time coming for the midfielder, he insists that he was not shocked upon hearing the news, adding that he was a late bloomer when it came to football.

"I seem to have developed late in the game," he said.

"I didn't make my debut until I was 21 and I wasn't a regular until I was 23. I've done everything late so it doesn't surprise me that I'm here now.

"I'd stopped looking for my name in the squad every time but I never gave up hope."

The Wigan-born playmaker went on to describe the moment when Everton manager David Moyes broke the news to the team.

"We were out on the training pitch and I saw a lot of staff start to filter to the side of the pitch," he said.

"The next thing the manager called us into a circle and announced I was in the squad. I got a big cheer from the side, lots of head ruffles and kidney punches. It was a great moment."

Another new face in the squad is Crystal Palace forward Wilfried Zaha.

Despite making his name in the second tier of English football, Daniel Sturridge has backed the 20-year to shine for his country.

"I have watched him play a few times and he was very sharp in training today, he looked very good," Sturridge said.

"As I say, he's hugely talented, he's got a lot of skill and can bring a lot to the table and I'm looking forward to playing with him."


Gerrard to have scans ahead of Sweden tie

12 November 2012 16:31

Steven Gerrard will undergo scans on a knee injury ahead of England's friendly against Sweden on Wednesday.

Roy Hodgson's squad has already been hit by a swathe of casualties from the weekend's action, with Wayne Rooney, Aaron Lennon, Theo Walcott, Jonjo Shelvey and Kyle Walker all pulling out.

Gerrard was thought be the latest to join them after picking up an injury against Chelsea at the weekend in the second half of the 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge.

But his club manager Brendan Rodgers believes he will be fine for the trip.

"I think Steven will be alright," Rodgers told Liverpool's official website.

"He has just opened up his medial ligament a bit. He has got some ice on his knee and we'll find out the full extent later on."

The Football Association believe Gerrard will be fit and he is in line to earn his 100th international cap for his country in the game against Erik Hamren's side in Stockholm.


Wilshere, Osman included in England squad

8 November 2012 12:48

Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has earned an England recall for their friendly against Sweden on Wednesday.

Wilshere has not featured for his country for over a year following a long spell on the sidelines with ankle and knee injuries, but returned to action for Arsenal last month.

There is also a surprise inclusion from manager Roy Hodgson with Everton's Leon Osman receiving his first England call-up at the age of 31.

Liverpool duo Raheem Sterling and Jonjo Shelvey have been rewarded for their fine form this season while captain Steven Gerrard is expected to win his 100th cap.


Fraser Forster (Celtic), Joe Hart (Manchester City), John Ruddy (Norwich City).

Leighton Baines (Everton), Ryan Bertrand (Chelsea), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Steven Caulker (Tottenham Hotspur), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Ryan Shawcross (Stoke City), Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur).

Tom Cleverley (Manchester United), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Leon Osman (Everton), Jonjo Shelvey (Liverpool), Raheem Sterling (Liverpool), Theo Walcott (Arsenal), Jack Wilshere (Arsenal), Ashley Young (Manchester United).

Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Daniel Sturridge (Chelsea), Daniel Welbeck (Manchester United).