Zlatan’s backheel really dented Italy’s Euro 2004 dreams. Ibrahimovic’s last-ditch goal against The Italians at Euro 2004 forced a 1-1 draw and put Italy on the cusp of going out of the tournament in the group stage. It was against whom he scored it –that makes it so special, though, and so prominent because he scored against Buffon who went on to be his teammate in Juventus the very next season.
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) June 17, 2016
Zlatan has gone on to score five goals across the next European Championships and is entering Euro 2021 three behind Michel Platini’s record of goals in the competition (nine). In the form that he is in, you would really back the Swedish to equal Platini’s record.
BUILD UP TO THE GAME
Italy had played out a really tedious and dire 0-0 draw with Denmark in their opening game of the tournament, followed by a 1-1 draw with Sweden. Italy had 2 points from 2 games and even if they won the last game, they could’ve gotten knocked out. Italy’s game against Sweden was a must-win for them to guarantee a knockout qualification.
Iconic kits, players, hairstyles, and sideburns. Especially sideburns.
📍 June 18, 2004 right before second half kickoff of Italy's match against Sweden in EURO 2004. pic.twitter.com/9ax40V6baV
— CalcioGoats (@CalcioGoats) July 28, 2020
The Italian side now found themselves in a very perilous position because goal difference was of no importance, so bettering Denmark’s 2-0 win over Bulgaria would have meant little. The decider, should Sweden and Denmark end up drawing their game, it would be their head-to-head record. Italy had drawn 0-0 and 1-1 against Denmark and Sweden, so a 2-2 draw between them would see them both through on goals scored within the head-to-head matches.
The Italians went in front when Antonio Cassano guided in a header into the bottom corner from a real good cross from Christian Panucci. Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero could not convert easy chances to seal the game. Italy was not up to their attacking game but they still carved out half-chances, with Vieri again getting really close with a low shot from another Panucci cross.
Italy might not have been the most potent attacking unit despite playing big names as Del Piero and Totti but the Italians really did know how to defend a league. Even with a narrow1-0 lead majority of the players would have backed the Italians to see the game off.
Italy played a really dangerous game late on as they let the Swedes keep on pushing forward and Jonson twice went close to grabbing an equalizer after being assisted by Larsson.
Throwback to Zlatan’s insane backheel goal against Italy in Euro 2004.
The swedish commentator is incredible pic.twitter.com/L6ixCuV3lX
— edvin (@IncredibleSalah) May 28, 2018
The corner was taken at went on to be a deep one on the back post, the ball was headed back in the 6-yard box after a couple of efforts to clear the ball by the Italians, the Swedish Ibrahimovic beat his future teammate Gianluigi Buffon and with his back to the goal, he improvised. Zlatan’s mid-air backheel scooped over Christian Vieri at the near post and sent the Swedish fans in Porto for the Euro 2004 went into hysteria and it was the first-ever goal scored by Ibrahimovic at a major senior international tournament. He then went on to score 5 more at the UEFA Euro.
Zlatan received a lot of plaudits for not only the goal but also his overall contribution, with the Swede earning a move from Ajax to Juventus the following summer.
When Buffon was asked about the goal, he said “It is not a beautiful memory for me, although later I was able to appreciate the technical ability, Zlatan was still quite young; we didn’t know how far he would go. [Since then] he has shown his ability.”
It will be really interesting to see Zlatan Ibrahimovic play for the Swedes again at the Euros this year.