'Ibracadabra' fails again to show magic is more than illusion

Ibrahimovic did his best but those who decry his talent will crow a little louder

Olympic Stadium

Keeping Zlatan Ibrahimovic quiet is a challenging enough task in a literal sense let alone on the pitch but England managed to shackle Sweden's star man to earn a vital victory in Group D.

A constant menace but not on the scoresheet, Ibrahimovic did his best to deliver the performance expected of him but ultimately those who decry his talent on the ground of his susceptibility to English teams' resolve will crow a little louder.

In his book entitled Jar Al Zlatan (I am Zlatan), he opined on his miserable time at Barcelona: "Something had happened, nothing serious, not yet, but still. I became quiet and that's lethal, believe me. I have to be angry to play well. I have to scream and shout."

England and their clubs have a similarly debilitating effect on the 30-year-old. Although he scored the winner when the two sides met in Gothenburg eight years ago, he has scored only three times in 1,312 minutes against Premier League sides.

His 45-minute appearance in November's 1-0 defeat at Wembley may as well have been a no-show but the perception of Ibrahimovic in England has always been skewed for a player with 32 goals in 79 games at international level.

In many of those matches he has been deployed as a lone striker but here in Kiev's Olympic Stadium he operated as a second striker behind Johan Elmander.

Sweden are a mirror image of England in a number of ways and just as Wayne Rooney operates at a technical and creative level above his more functional team-mates, Ibrahimovic is the standout act in an otherwise limited side.

But the mood has to take him. Dropping deep to pick up possession, this artisan surveyed the scene before him as if sizing up the canvas on which he was about to deliver his masterful brush strokes.

The weakness in using Ibrahimovic in a deeper position is that his lack of pace is exposed when he has the opportunity to run at defenders, simply because he has more ground to cover in reaching the goal.

A quick early ball from the right released him and a quicker player could have burst clear but instead Glen Johnson was able to recover and snuff out the danger.

Every move Sweden attempted flowed through Ibrahimovic. A sighter from 20 yards forced Joe Hart into a routine save, before another attack saw him cut inside James Milner and again force England's goalkeeper into action.

It was inevitable that Ibrahimovic would be involved in restoring parity following Andy Carroll's thumping first-half header.

They are few players who can rightly claim priority on free-kicks ahead of Sunderland's Sebastian Larsson but Ibrahimovic stepped up following Milner's careless and carded foul and after his first effort hit the wall, his second somehow found Olof Mellberg who beat Hart with some help from Johnson.

It was a fortuitous moment but the Milan forward was stirring himself and Sweden's confidence palpably grew. Mellberg nodded Sweden in front but substitute Theo Walcott counter-punched.

Ibrahimovic threatened to win it with a 20-yard effort that stung Hart's fingertips. But for all his efforts – and his critics had no further evidence here to dismiss him as a lackadaisical luxury – it was another striker on the pitch who provided the game's decisive moment.

Danny Welbeck somehow converted Walcott's cross with an improvised flick the likes of which Ibrahimovic has wowed Europe with before.

Ibrahimovic has one final chance against France to inspire his nation or face an early Euro 2012 exit. It is a trick he is used to being asked to pull off.

However, on this occasion, the man they call 'Ibracadabra' did his best to conjure something from his spell book but England were just about immune.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot