Inspired Ibrahimovic scores 4, Messi misses out

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Inspired Ibrahimovic scores 4, Messi misses out

LONDON - Zlatan Ibrahimovic christened Sweden’s new stadium with a sprinkling of gold on Wednesday with three classy goals and one great one in a 4-2 friendly win over England while Lionel Messi drew a blank for Argentina in Riyadh.

With only a handful of low-key World Cup qualifiers on the fixture list, coaches of some of the favorites to challenge for the trophy in Brazil in 2014 got a last chance this year to cast an eye over their squads.

On a night when the Netherlands and Germany drew 0-0 in Amsterdam, France won 2-1 in Italy and Messi’s Argentina was held 0-0 by Saudi Arabia in Riyadh, it was Sweden’s victory in Stockholm that stole the limelight because of the exploits of Ibrahimovic, who scored three times in the last 16 minutes.

The Paris Saint-Germain striker gave Sweden an early lead with an instinctive finish and after an experimental England, who gave debuts to six players, took a 2-1 halftime lead, Ibrahimovic produced a stunning finale to a lively friendly.

He equalized with a shot after a beautiful piece of chest control, slammed in a free kick to put the Swedes ahead and then provided the coup de grace, performing an acrobatic overhead kick from 25 meters (82 feet) to raise the roof of the Friends Arena.

“His performance tonight was simply world-class and that fourth goal was one of the best I’ve ever seen,” captain Steven Gerrard told ITV Sport on the night of his 100th England appearance.

It was England’s first defeat in 90 minutes since manager Roy Hodgson took over in May.

Hodgson’s team, which will continue its World Cup qualifying campaign in March with work to do after Montenegro went top of their group with a 3-0 victory over San Marino on Wednesday, gave starting places to debutants Raheem Sterling, Leon Osman and Steven Caulker.

Three other players made their debuts as substitutes.

Messi failed in his bid to set an outright record for the most Argentina goals in a calendar year.

Saudi goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah did well to keep out substitute Augusto Fernandez and Messi, who shares the Argentina record of 12 goals in a year with Gabriel Batistuta.

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