When Sweden and Ukraine lined up against one another last night, many largely expected to see the first 0-0 of the tournament. Whilst unflattering on paper, the BBC hardly did the game any favours. Sarcasm, a lack of seriousness and to a large extent arrogance emanated from messrs Lineker, Hansen and Shearer, whilst Dixon tried his upmost to buck the trend.
Ultimately, it set the game up for a pitfall but I couldn’t help but become
emotionally drawn into the impending duel between Zlatan Ibrahimović and Andriy Shevchenko.
Deep in the realms of Milan fandom, the pulses raced when the two stood opposite one another for the coin toss. Both men captaining their countries, both men with something to prove and I couldn’t help but feel the gauntlet had privately been thrown down.
“I am Milan’s finest ever striker,” was the message transmitted through my television when the two shook hands, Zlatan pompously avoiding eye contact as he did so. For me, the stage was set.
Whilst the first half was open and engaging, Martin Keown took to reading out loud from his big book of Zlatan clichés, from front to back… and then back to front again. The tireless effort into discrediting the great man continued into the second half until the big Swede then broke the deadlock to put Sweden a goal up, and place Ibra ahead in the Milan Capocannoniere Sweepstake.
Similarily for the co-hosts, Shevchenko was also taking his fair share of flak. Jokes of naming a stadium and square after him, were preceeded by Hansen’s best efforts to sarcastically denounce the great Ukrainian’s pace.
All of that was forgotten however when across a span of 7 minutes, Sheva hit a quick fire double to send the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv into raptures.
The former AC Milan gunner had proudly lifted his country on his back, secured three points for his nation, and lest we not forget, secured himself a more personal victory of the red and black variety.