Messi vs. Ibrahimovic: Who Won out in International Friendly

Nathan JudahCorrespondent IFebruary 6, 2013

MILAN, ITALY - MARCH 28:  Zlatan Ibrahimovic of AC Milan and Lionel Messi of Barcelona during the UEFA Champions League quarter final first leg match between AC Milan and Barcelona at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on March 28, 2012 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Despite Lionel Messi's dominance at club level over the last eight seasons, it is fair to say he hasn't taken the international stage by storm just yet.

However, the same statement cannot be leveled at his ex-Barca teammate who continues to shine in the yellow of Sweden.

So it might have come as a big surprise that the opening goalfest inside the first 20 minutes did not see either player on the score sheet.

Nevertheless, that did not stop one man making continuously significant contributions to help his team dominate a first half that produced four excellent goals.

Yes, you guessed it: Lionel Messi was at his unplayable best in his customary false-nine role.

Sweden had no answer to Argentina's three-pronged attack of Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, the latter two finding the back of the net with ease thanks to assists from the Barcelona phenom.

It was Messi's presence in the box that caused Lustig to put the ball into his own net after just three minutes, while a beautiful ball through the defence gave Aguero his first of the game, as he placed his shot precisely into the bottom corner.

Higuain was the next to benefit, after Messi's fierce shot was only palmed into the path of the Real Madrid forward. It should have been a brace but the 25-year-old blazed over after being put through guessed it—Messi.

It was probably one of the most one-sided halves of international football you will see this year, and yet Sweden were somehow still in the game thanks to Jonas Olsson's header from Ibrahimovic's corner.

Indeed, it was Ibrahimovic who provided the main danger from Sweden, but he was nevertheless in Messi's shadow for much of the first half.

However, that was more to do with the gulf in quality between the two sides rather than their individual ability.

The Paris St-Germain forward was withdrawn immediately after the restart in what looked to be an agreement between club and country prior to the game.

It was probably a wise idea, with the Argentinians continuing their dominance without extending the scoreline. Both sides decreased the tempo, although there was a worrying moment towards the end of the game when substitute Wernbloom went in unnecessarily hard on Messi.

He was healthy enough to take the resulting free kick and stay on the pitch for 90 minutes.

And if anyone needed telling who came out on top between the two players, the fact that the Swedish sponsors gave Messi Man of the Match said it all.

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