Messi-Ibra showdown as Sweden hosts Argentina
STOCKHOLM (AP) — The much-anticipated showdown between Lionel Messi and Zlatan Ibrahimovic in Argentina's friendly against Sweden on Wednesday may not last more than a half.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren said Tuesday he will probably substitute Ibrahimovic at halftime as the striker has a busy club schedule coming up with Paris Saint-Germain.
"It's nice to play a lot of matches but you have to respect your body, too," Ibrahimovic said. "It needs to last for another three-four months."
PSG has a league game Friday followed by a Champions League quarterfinal match at Valencia four days later. Messi has a less hectic program: a league match with Barcelona on Sunday but no Champions League action until Feb. 20.
Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said there's no doubt which of the two is better.
"Zlatan is a world-class player, but Messi is the best in the world," Sabella was quoted as saying by Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet.
Ibrahimovic didn't argue.
"Leo is a fantastic player. Individually probably the best in the world," Ibrahimovic said. "That's why he wins all the individual prizes."
Messi has 34 league goals for Barcelona this season while Ibrahimovic leads the French league's scoring table with 20.
While both players have faced criticism in the past of underperforming for their national teams, recently they have delivered for both club and country.
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