Sweden vs Argentina
6 February 2013
Friends Arena, Solna
Unofficial Football World Champions Sweden face a tough test in this mouthwatering clash at the Friends Arena on Wednesday. Sweden’s latest UFWC reign has taken them to 7th place in the all-time rankings, ahead of Germany, Italy and France. But Wednesday’s opposition is one of the few teams still ranked above Sweden – 3rd placed Argentina.
Initial thoughts are inevitably of a personal match-up between two of football’s great individuals. But, intriguing as it is to wonder which one might be Unofficial Football World Champion at the end of the match, this is more than just Zlatan versus Messi. Both teams will field strong sides in what looks like being the toughest UFWC clash since October 2010, when Argentina defeated Spain 4-1. That was Argentina’s last UFWC win – they lost the title to Japan in their next match.
Friends Arena by alinnman / Flickr
After fielding a mostly Nordic-based squad in the King’s Cup tournament, Sweden will welcome back several senior players for this game – most notably mercurial Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. English-based players Seb Larsson of Sunderland, Jonas Olsson of West Bromwich Albion and Martin Olsson of Blackburn Rovers are all back in the squad. King’s Cup winners Anders Svensson, Adam Johansson and Tobias Hysen retain their berths.
The Argentinian players won’t have too far to travel for this match. Santos midfielder Walter Montillo is the only non-European-based player in Alejandro Sabella’s Argentina squad. The previously-mentioned Lionel Messi is included, as is Barcelona teammate Javier Mascherano, plus Real Madrid rivals Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain. Premier League stars include Pablo Zabaleta and Sergio Aguero of Manchester City, Newcastle United’s Fabricio Coloccini, plus Franco Di Santo of Wigan Athletic. Valencia midfielder Ever Banega is named in the squad for the first time since he was injured in a freak accident in October 2011, when his car rolled onto his leg while he was filling up with petrol.
Argentina played 11 matches in 2012 and lost only one. That was against Brazil in the first leg of a two-legged friendly using players from domestic leagues that was ultimately decided on penalties – so it probably shouldn’t be seen as representative. Sweden also have a strong recent record. They’ve beaten England and drawn with Germany, and – of course – are the current unofficial champs.
It looks like a hard match to call, although the bookmakers fancy Argentina. At the time of writing, Bet365 have Messi and company as 5/4 favourites, with Zlatan’s Sweden at a tempting 11/5. You can also watch a free and legal live stream of the match via Bet365, subject to restrictions in your country. Just click on the link below. You’ll need to create an account if you don’t already have one, but you don’t need to make a bet. If you do open an account and decide to make a deposit of £10 or more, you’ll be entitled to up to £200 in free bets.