Two-goal day sees Zlatan Ibrahimovic become Sweden’s all-time leading scorer

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Fresh off a weekend hat trick that marked his return from injury, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has reached another personal landmark, this time at the international level.  Scoring three and 21 minutes into today’s visit from Estonia, Sweden’s captain hit the half-century mark, catching then passing Sven Rydell to become the country’s all-time leading corer.

Ibrahimovic’s two-goal day led Erik Hamrén’s team to a 2-0 win in Solna, Sweden. Ranked 29th in the world, the Swedes now move on to next week’s Euro 2016 qualifying, where the team opens Group G play Monday at Austria. Drawn into a group with top-seeded Russia, Sweden is one of two favorites to qualify for an expanded European championship field.

Should he appear on Monday, Ibrahimovic will become the 10th player in Swedish history to reach the 100-cap mark – 57 more than Rydell amassed in his 10-year international career. A bronze medalist at the 1924 Olympics, Rydell amassed a goal-scoring mark that stood for 82 years, with no player coming within six of his total before Ibrahimovic’s arrival.

Opening the day’s scoring, Ibrahimovic’s third minute volley barely made it over the goal line before Estonia goalkeeper Sergei Pareiko’s attempted stop. Capitalizing on a failed clearance of a Sweden corner, Ibrahimovic one-timed his left-footed shot from eight yards out at the far post, beating Pareiko before the FK Volga keeper could make it back across goal.

Ibrahimovic’s second was a page from his legend. Cutting across the six-yard box toward the near post, the Sweden captain met a low driven ball four yards out, playing the pass with a right back-heel that froze Pareiko before rolling into goal.

Though a back injury has already cost Ibrahimovic a game with Paris Saint-Germain this season, his five goals in three games leaves him two clear atop Ligue 1‘s scoring charts. Add in today’s performance and two goals on Aug. 2 in France’s Super Cup, and Ibrahimovic has nine goals in five appearances this season, bringing his total (club and country) to 105 since moving to PSG just over two years ago.

Kane scores early and late, England narrowly top Tunisia

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England’s 2018 World Cup debut began brilliantly, then appeared headed for a disappointingly familiar outcome, but was ultimately saved by Harry Kane who scored both goals in the Three Lions’ 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday.

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England came sprinting out of the starting blocks — so quickly they nearly took flight — and taking an early lead through Harry Kane in the 11th minute (WATCH HERE). John Stones‘ header was spectacularly saved by Mouez Hassen, but Kane was in the right place at the right time and swept home the rebound for his first World Cup goal (on his World Cup debut).

The opening half-hour was all England, with the likes of Dele Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling cutting through the Tunisian midfield and defense with very little resistance and creating a half-dozen golden scoring chances. Unfortunately for Gareth Southgate‘s side, they couldn’t capitalize, and they were made to pay for it.

Kyle Walker caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a raised arm as an innocuous cross came into the box, prompting referee Wilmar Roldan to blow his whistle and point to the penalty spot immediately. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and converted, just out of reach of Jordan Pickford, who perhaps got a fingertip on the ball (WATCH HERE), to make it 1-1 and negate an otherwise dominant first-half performance by England. It would be Tunisia’s only shot on goal for the game.

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England’s best chance to re-establish a lead came during a six-yard-box scramble just seconds before halftime. Alli’s header hit the crossbar and Stones badly scuffed — nearly whiffed — on the follow-up. Kane was dragged to the ground during the rest of the commotion, to no interest of Roldan.

It took far longer than anyone back home in England would have liked, but Kane grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, heading home from acres of space at the back post. Jordan Henderson got the first crack at heading the corner kick, but it was blocked and bound high into the air. Somehow, some way, Kane was unmarked and snuck his redirect just inside the post.

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Up next for England is a meeting with Panama on Sunday, a day after Tunisia take on Belgium, who thrashed the Panamanians, 3-0, on Monday.

VIDEO: Tunisia equalizes on controversial penalty kick

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England centerback Kyle Walker put his arm up to halt the forward progress of Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. Unfortunately for Walker, Ben Youssef was in the box and Walker’s elbow caught Ben Youssef’s face.

Referee Wilmar Roldan quickly whistled for a penalty kick and despite the protests from a half-dozen of England players and a check from the VAR, the called stood. Ferjani Sassi’stepped up to the spot and found the lower-left corner, just barely beating Jordan Pickford to tie the game in the 35th minute.

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How will England respond?

VIDEO: Captain Kane puts England on the board early

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It may be the easiest goal-scoring opportunity Harry Kane‘s ever had in an international competition, and he finished it as easy as you’d like.

Kane side-footed home after Tunisia goalkeeper Mouez Hassen made a terrific save on John Stone’s header off a corner, but the save was directed right into a wide-open Kane who was standing ready inside the six yard box. The 11th minute goal will surely settle some of the Three Lions’ nerves as they open their World Cup bid in Russia.

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After slow start, Belgium takes care of business against feisty Panama

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All it took was one goal to bring Belgium to life.

Following a frustrating first 45 minutes, in which Belgium put a pair of shots into the side netting and forced saves from Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo, Dries Mertens 47th minute goal opened the floodgates, as Belgium went on to defeat Panama, 3-0, Monday afternoon in Sochi.

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But Panama never made it easy for the Belgians. From the opening whistle the CONCACAF nation showed its incredible spirit, chasing down Belgium all across the field and making life incredibly difficult for Belgium attackers Romelu Lukaku, Mertens and Eden Hazard. Hazard was hacked down all over the field, and while he did earn fouls and a few yellow cards were issued to Panamanian players, it was enough to get in Hazard’s head.

Two minutes into the second half, everything changed. A wonderstrike from Mertens opened the game, and forced Panama to attack and try and tie the match, which gave Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku more space to operate.

In the heat and humidity of the Sochi summer, Panama’s veteran defense began to tire, allowing de Bruyne the space to deliver a terrific assist to Lukaku in the box, putting Belgium up 2-0 in the 69th minute.

 

Six minutes later, Lukaku was put through on the break, chipping over Penedo to confirm the victory.

With the win, Belgium moves to the top of Group G. Up next for Belgium is Tunisia on Saturday, while Panama takes on England on Sunday.