Heroes & Villains: angelic Agger and arrogant Ibrahimovic
A tattooed, heavy-metal fan and former tough-tackling Liverpool defender, Agger could certainly pass for a Hollywood hard man. Far from the bruiser image he presents, however, the Dane recently illustrated his softer side, following a move back to his home nation and boyhood club Brondby.
After finding out charity Ombold still required around £2,100 to send a team to represent Denmark at the Homeless World Cup in Chile, Agger revealed a philanthropic streak by funding the difference.
Football’s own Robin Hood eclipsed the mythical character by dipping into his own pocket to give to the poor. This earned him adulation from charity worker Frits Ahlstrom, who told Danish TV: “I talked to him and said we still had to find 20,000 krone, and he said without hesitating: ‘I’ll give it to you.’ There is no substitute for class and Daniel has it on and off the field, as a player and as a person.”
Brilliant Bale donned his headband to provide a sprinkling of stardust to an average Wales side, rising above the uncomfortable conditions and difficult terrain as any self-respecting sporting hero should do.
The Real Madrid winger came to the rescue and spared his compatriots’ blushes by heading home an equaliser against European minnows Andorra. Not content with simply sharing the spoils, Bale won and then converted an exquisite free kick, curling the ball into the top right-hand corner to propel his team to victory.
Unlikely goal hero Welbeck proved himself a knight of the realm, bagging a brace to sink Switzerland and starring in what was an encouraging ensemble England performance.
Re-energised by his escape to Arsenal, Arsene Wenger’s mystical powers may have already given the Three Lions star a boost of confidence and hunger. The 23-year-old looked to have finally graduated from support act to leading man, illustrating little of the Bambi-on-ice tendencies he had previously shown, to make two decisive finishes and lead England’s Lions to glory.
Andorra’s artificial pitch
Dubbed as “the worst pitch I have ever played on” by Gareth Bale, Andorra’s bobbly artificial surface at the Andorra la Vella stadium managed to challenge the game-changing Welshman for headline space.
The 3G turf sent up sprays of black rubber and proved to be an enemy of good football during the Euro 2016 qualifying clash, prompting Chris Coleman to state: “I can talk about the pitch now, if you’re a passing team forget it”.
A usually likeable anti-hero, mercurial Sweden striker Ibrahimovic’s talent and arrogance has provided many highlights over the span over his football career. However, his 100th cap passed with no goal reward to crown the Swedish gladiator’s century appearance.
His unsporting streak was in full view, however, as Ibrahimovic channelled the dark arts, including an elbow on David Alaba and a death stare trained on a spooked Rubin Okotie who deigned to touch the superstar. In typical Ibrahimovic-style, the striker joked after the match that he should “get a 40-match ban” for his antics.
Every team of sporting heroes needs a competent leader, but Portugal boss Bento appears to be steering The Navigators increasingly off-course. After crashing out of the World Cup, the Iberian outfit suffered further insult to injury with a Euro 2016 qualifying defeat to Albania on home soil.
Peppered with boos from the baying crowd, Bento is now charged with wasting talent. Superstar skipper Cristiano Ronaldo may have been absent, but the excuses are beginning to wear thin as the prospect of international silverware in the Ronaldo era looks increasingly bleak.