WARSAW (Reuters) - Anyone who accused England’s Andy Carroll of being a throwback centre forward big on brawn but short on beauty should be forced to watch the astonishing super-slow motion replay of his wonderful headed Euro 2012 goal against Sweden on Friday.
The England striker connected with Steven Gerrard’s inviting diagonal cross and thumped an old-style bullet header beyond the flailing arms of Sweden keeper Andreas Isaksson to give England the lead in a Group D game they eventually won 3-2.
The naked-eye view was enough for anyone to realise the power, timing and precision of the connection, as the ball rocketed in at a pace many players would be proud of with a volley.
It was only in the “super slow motion” replay though that the true extent of Carroll’s athleticism, co-ordination, strength and skill was exposed in a sequence fully deserving the “poetry in motion” tag.
A golfer, tennis player or boxer generates power through his legs and planted feet and transfers it into his arms but a mid-air footballer has to find everything from within.
The replay of Carroll showed the movement starting from his hips, travelling up through his powerful torso and into neck muscles and tendons ripped with tension and kinetic energy.
He then channelled every ounce of that power into the connection with the ball, which was five metres into its journey before the slow motion pictures show his head beginning its follow through.
Normal TV pictures present the action at 25 frames per second but “super slow-mo” delivers around 1,000 per second, giving modern viewers an incredible experience and new ability to appreciate the athletic feats of professional sportsmen.
On this occasion it showed that there is just as much skill and athleticism needed, arguably more, to score a “route one” goal such as Carroll’s as for players to exchange 25 passes before a tap-in finish for a goal that would routinely be greeted as an example of footballing excellence.
Carroll said he was able to time his run, jump and connection because he spends so much time working at Liverpool with his club mate Gerrard but there can be few other footballers in the modern game, if any, who can match his aerial ability or generate such velocity.
In generations past, despite the balls being far heavier, forwards were picked often for their heading skills as the likes of Dixie Dean and Tommy Lawton racked up record-beating tallies feeding on endless crosses delivered from both wings.
It is an aspect of the game that has almost disappeared in many countries and is increasingly rare in English football, though there have been an unusual number of headed goals in the current tournament.
Former England centre forward Alan Shearer, another prodigious header of the ball and, like Carroll, a formerly worshipped number nine at Newcastle United, described Friday’s goal as “magnificent.”
It also brought back memories of Ruud Gullit’s thunderous header that set Netherlands on their way to victory over the Soviet Union in the 1988 European Championship final.
Though overshadowed ever since by Marco van Basten’s all-time-classic volley later in the match, Gullit almost jack-knifed to produce a similarly unstoppable headed finish, his flying dreadlocks framing the moment.
He too was impressed with Carroll’s bullet.
“That was a great goal,” he said.
Editing by Ed Osmond