Sweden vs. Argentina: 5 Things We Learned in Friendly Match
Sweden and Argentina pulled off a cracking game in one of the more entertaining international football matches on offer this Wednesday.
A brace from Gonzalo Higuain and a goal from strike partner Sergio Aguero helped La Albiceleste to a 3-2 win over the Swedes, with Jonas Olsson and Rasmus Elm on target for the hosts.
It was a sell-out crowd at the Friends Arena, and with a star-studded cast on display, the game did not disappoint.
Here are five things we learned from Sweden vs. Argentina.
Argentina Will Make a Big Impact at the 2014 World Cup
Argentina were in good form heading into the match with Sweden, having won five of their last eight matches, including wins over Brazil, Germany, Uruguay and Chile.
And in the match in Stockholm, the Argentines again proved their worth with a convincing display.
Sweden couldn't handle the possession tactics of their visitors, and were chasing shadows for much of the contest, while going forward they were largely limited to chances from set-pieces.
Argentina on the other hand dictated the tempo and rhythm of the game, and could've doubled their eventual tally had it not been for the excellent goalkeeping of Andreas Isaksson.
To head to Sweden and not only win, but dominate proceedings, in the same place where the England side that has just beaten Brazil lost 4-2, indicates how well Argentina played.
Like they also proved in their friendly against Germany, Alejandro Sabella's men are more than capable of playing different types of opposition and dominating the game.
If they can keep up their form both from qualifying and this friendly, then it's safe to say La Albiceleste will be big contenders for the 2014 World Cup.
Argentina's Passing Game Worked—But Set-Pieces Are a Problem
Argentina controlled throughout against Sweden thanks to their classic passing play.
The Argentines seem to have found a new lease of life under manager Alejandro Sabella, who has his team pressing high up the field and playing in an almost Barcelona-esque 4-3-3 formation.
The three-pronged attack of Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain on either side of captain Lionel Messi as the false nine was too much for Sweden to handle, with their passing and movement—supported by the attacking full-backs and Angel Di Maria in the attacking midfield role—consistently splitting open the Swedish defence.
However, one big problem for Argentina was their inability from set-pieces.
While little could be done for Rasmus Elm's wonderstrike free-kick right at the end, Jonas Olsson's equaliser on 17 minutes was a case of poor defending, with the West Bromwich Albion centre-back unmarked at the far post.
And any time thereafter Sweden floated the ball into the box, again Argentina struggled to clear their lines, with Olsson having another glorious chance from a corner towards the end.
While the majority of their defenders seem to be improving, especially Pablo Zabaleta at right-back—arguably the best in the Premier League in that position this season—set-pieces continue to be a serious concern for Sabella's side.
Sweden a Long Way Off the Top Teams
The gap between Sweden and the teams at the higher end of the FIFA World Rankings was clear to see in Gothenburg on Wednesday.
While they managed to exploit Argentina's weakness from set-pieces and end the game with a respectable 3-2 scoreline, it was a result which very much flattered the hosts.
Argentina dictated play for long spells in the game and gave their opponents precious little time on the ball with their slick and accurate passing across the middle and final thirds.
But Sweden did manage to reclaim possession, a combination of poor control and inaccurate passes disjointed their play going forward.
Their lack of top-class technical ability was one of their main pitfalls against the Argentines, while tactically they failed to cope with the movement of La Albiceleste's stellar attacking line.
It'll be a long time before Sweden can be considered a top footballing nation.
Lionel Messi Won Lionel vs. Zlatan
The game was billed as a goalscoring battle between Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but rather anti-climatically, the duo failed to get on the scoresheet.
Though Ibrahimovic only played the first-half as promised compared to the full 90 for Lionel Messi, in the opening 45 minutes in which both players were on the field, Messi was still better than his former Barcelona teammate.
While Ibrahimovic could barely get the ball, Messi was dictating play in the final third, and did everything but score.
His link-up play with Aguero and Higuain was stellar, while his ability to create space for his strike partners and thread a ball through a crowded defence was second to none.
In both the first and second half he was unlucky not to score—especially in the second period when he chipped Andreas Isaksson, only for the goalkeeper to make an excellent clearance off the line.
Correct Friendly Opposition
This match was the right game at the right time for both sides.
After their sensational win over England in November and a solid 3-0 win over rivals Finland in January, another glamour friendly against a top team was the right test for Sweden, and important in maintaining national interest in the game,
While for Argentina it was important to play in a different environment outside South America, and against a different, more defensive style of play.
The game was a useful litmus test for the Swedes to see where they really are in the world football echelons, after the hysteria following that 4-2 win over England.
And for the Argentines, having played against a more open and expansive Germany side back in August, it was key they had a test against a more defensive European team.
It was a friendly which worked out well for both teams, especially Argentina.
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