World Football - Argentina beat Sweden in five-goal thriller

International Friendly, Stockholm – Sweden 2 (J. Olsson 18, Elm 90) Argentina 3 (Lustig 3 o.g, Aguero 19, Higuain 23)

Football - Venezuela ready to stand up to Argentina again

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Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain (L) is congratulated by team mate Lionel Messi after a goal during an international friendly match against Sweden at Friends Arena in Stockholm, February 6, 2013 (Reuters)

Argentina scored three first half goals as they edged out Sweden 3-2 in their international friendly at the Friends Arena in Stockholm.

The unfortunate Mikael Lustig put the ball through his own net after just three minutes before Jonas Olsson equalised with a header 15 minutes later.

The visitors then scored two goals in four minutes as Sergio Aguero first pulled his side back level with a cheeky lobbed finish. Gonzalo Higuain then added the South American’s third with the simplest of tap-ins.

Subsitute Rasmus Elm scored the goal of the game with a thunderous free kick 35 yards from goal deep into second-half stoppage time.

Most of the pre-match focus lay heavily on the shoulders of two of the sport’s greatest players – Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Lionel Messi – but they were soon forgotten after just three minutes as the visitors stunned the home crowd by taking the lead.

Argentina gained possession on the halfway line and went forward in numbers, with the potent trio of Messi, Aguero and Higuain causing havoc in the hosts’ penalty area. Real Madrid winger Angel Di Maria down burst through the middle with options both right and left.

The tricky number seven faked to go one way before rolling the ball into the path of Higuain, who took the ball in his stride before firing at goal. Defender Mikael Lustig made superb ground in an attempt to make a vital block but could only divert the ball into his net, with goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson wrong-footed.

Sweden looked shell-shocked for the following minutes but eventually found their way in the game and looked dangerous when going forward.

Fulham’s Alex Kacaniklic came close on seven minutes following some good play from Ibrahimovic. The classy striker tore down the left wing, cutting inside Pablo Zabaleta and finding his team mate with a perfectly-weighted ball.

Under pressure from Ezequiel Garay, Kacaniklic could only drag his shot wide from 10 yards with only the goalkeeper to beat.

The hosts did pull level just before the 20-minute mark as Andreas Granqvist’s inswinging corner from the left was met by the towering head of Jonas Olsson, who simply nodded the ball past the helpless Sergio Romero.

The goal certainly brightened the spirits of the home crowd but just two minutes later their side were back behind.

Di Maria played a pivotal role in the goal yet again, given all the time in the world to travel through the centre of the Sweden half and pick out Aguero with a delightful through ball. Granqvist attempted a sliding interception but was unable to get anything on the ball, allowing the City striker to chip the ball over the onrushing Isaksson and into the back of the empty net.

With their tails wagging, Argentina turned the screw and only three minutes later added to their tally.

Messi received the ball 20 yards from goal after a neat exchange with Aguero. The Barca man was given too much space and was able to fire an effort on goal. It was straight at the Sweden keeper but had too much power on it for the custodian to hold, as he beat the ball onto the penalty spot straight into the path of Higuain, who coolly slotted the ball into the empty net.

The second half failed to live up to the first, but there was still plenty of excitement at either end.

Granqvist and Olsson combined again from a corner but the West Bromwich Albion defender was unable to direct his header on target under pressure from Romero.

Sweden keeper Isaksson followed up a smart stop from Higuian moments later with an even better save. Fernando Gago found Messi with a clever scooped pass over the top of the hosts’ defence which allowed for the pint-sized magician to take the ball out of the air and lift it over the head of the Swedish custodian. The ball came within millimetres of crossing the line only for Isaksson to acrobatically overhead kick the ball to safety.

2011-12 Premier League hero Aguero then missed an open goal after riding the challenge of two Swedish defender and taking the ball past Isaksson. All he had to do was stroke the ball home from close range but fired wide from a tight angle.

With four minutes of added time, it looked like the mach was petering out, but substitute Rasmus Elm made the last 30 seconds of the game far more uncomfortable for the South American side after he scored a stunning goal.

Sebastian Larsson was brought down 35 yards from goal and stood over the free-kick, intent on taking it. Elm had other ideas, however, taking a long run-up before thumping the ball into the far right-hand corner, leaving Romero absolutely no chance.


Angel Di Maria – Argentina: The Real Madrid winger only played the first half but was fantastic. The Swedish defence struggled to deal with the winger, who showed a quick turn of pace, fantastic footwork and an eye for a pass as his set up his side’s first two goals.


SWEDEN: Isaksson 6, Lustig 5, Jonas Olsson 6, Granqvist 6, Martin Olsson 6, Larsson 5, Svensson 6, Kallstrom 7, Kacaniklic 6, Ibrahimovic 6, Hysen 6... Subs: Elm 7, Wernbloom 3, Ranegie 4, Johansson 5, Durmaz 4

ARGENTINA: Romero 6, Garay 6, Campagnaro 5, Zabaleta 6, Federico Fernandez 5, Gago 6, Di Maria 8, Mascherano 5, Higuain 6, Messi 7, Aguero 7... Subs: Coloccini 4, Montillo 4, Ansaldi 4, Ever 5, Lavezzi 5, Di Santo 3

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