On this day in 1934, England played a friendly game of football against Italy. But the abundance of blood and broken bones at the end of the game gave the impression that none of those players had friendship on their minds.
The ridiculously charged fixture has since then been dubbed as ‘The Battle of Highbury’. Arsenal’s former stadium hosted 56,000 eager fans as the Three Lions went toe to toe with the Italians. The England XI included seven Arsenal players – Bastin, Bowden, Copping, Drake, Hapgood, Male and Moss – which is still a record.
Meanwhile Italy were the reigning world champions. Mussollini had apparently offered the Azzurri cars and bonuses if they beat the English.
The ‘battle’ began in the second minute when England forward Ted Drake made a crunching tackle on Luis Monti who had to leave the pitch with a broken foot. With the concept of substitutions still alien, the Italians had to play the remainder of the game with ten men. The world champions obviously angered by Drake’s savage tackle, retaliated by delivering a broken nose to Eddie Hapgood and a broken arm to Eric Brook. But the damage had already been done. Brook had scored a brace while Drake added another to put England 3-0 up at half-time.
The legendary Gieuseppe Meazza sparked a comeback all by himself by scoring a brace in the second half. He would have got a hat-trick towards the end but his effort hit the woodwork as the game ended 3-2 to England.
Zlatan destroys England
On this day in 2012, Sweden hosted England in a friendly at the brand new Friends Arena in Stockholm. Captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored four, including an inexplicable bicycle kick goal from a mile away, to help Sweden win 4-2.
The Swedish captain put his country ahead in the 20th minute before Danny Welbeck and Steven Caulker scored two to make it 2-1 to England at half-time. The lead lasted until the 77th minute before Ibrahimovic equalised for Sweden. He completed his hat-trick ten minutes later from a free-kick.
Despite each of his goals being wonderfully crafted and beautiful to watch, it was his fourth and last of the game that stole the show. No amount of words could possibly do justice to the majestic piece of skill from the big Swede or the comically gross incompetence of England keeper Joe Hart. You have to see it to believe it.