Most football fans will agree that goals are what makes the Beautiful Game special.
And when it comes to goals, there are a number of players who stand out head and shoulders above all others and when they play, football fans throughout the world stand still and watch.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic are two such players.
Between them they have scored more than 1,000 goals in some of the top leagues throughout the world and on Wednesday their respective teams will go head-to-head when Juventus host AC Milan in the return leg of the Coppa Italia.
It could be argued that Juventus have a slight advantage going into the second leg as they managed a 1-1 draw in the first leg, meaning that a goalless draw at home or any victory would see them through to their 19th final.
Ronaldo, who is only in his second season in the Serie A with Juventus, scored his side’s goal in the San Siro in a match that saw Theo Hernández red carded in the 71st minute before the Portuguese international levelled matters in injury time from the penalty spot.
Ibrahimovic, meanwhile, is in his second spell with I Rossoneri and aged 38 years, knows that his time in top flight football is nearing an end and although he has thrice won the Supercoppa (the competition played between the league champions and the cup winners), he is yet to receive a winners’ medal for the Coppa Italia.
Ibra – as he is affectionately known by his fans – will, however, have to sit out as the yellow card he received in the first leg sees him, as well as Samu Castillejo and Hernández suspended for the return leg.
Coach Stefano Pioli is expected to give Rafael Leão a place in the starting line-up as he looks for goals to take his side through. The 20-year-old Portuguese striker is widely considered to be one of the players to take over in his national team when Ronaldo retires.
Like the Swede, Ronaldo has not managed to add the Coppa Italia to his vast array of winners’ medals and like Ibrahimovic, he is in the twilight of his career.
Ronaldo has two goals from four Coppa Italia matches, while Ibrahimovic, who has played in the competition for Inter Milan, AC Milan and Juventus, has grabbed eight goals from 15 matches.
The winner of the tie between Juve and Milan, will face the winner of the tie between Napoli and Inter Milan, with the home side being the favourites after Fabián Ruiz Peña gave them a 1-0 victory in Milan in the first leg.
The visitors will be without Nigerian international Victor Moses, who has been ruled out through injury, while Napoli are sweating over Dries Mertens, who was injured in his side’s Champions League match against Barcelona.
The striker was on target for Napoli when they last won the Coppa Italia, beating Fiorentina 3-1 in the final.
African football fans have a chance to see some of the game’s greatest goal scorers in action as the matches are being shown live and exclusive on the StarTimes football channels.
Peter Auf der Heyde
Peter Auf der Heyde is an award-winning football journalist and author, who covers the big European leagues. As a South African by birth, he is particularly interested in the African connection within European football and has covered 12 consecutive Africa Cup of Nations tournaments live. Formerly head of sport at the English service of the German Press Association, he is one of the leading Bundesliga experts.
Auf der Heyde played professionally for Bosmont Chelsea in the South African top flight and now spends his time migrating between South Africa, Germany and the UK.