Ibrahimovic leaves the best to last


Friendly international round-up:Zlaten Ibrahimovic send out a chilling warning to the Republic of Ireland ahead of their World Cup qualifier next March by scoring all four goals for Swedenin their 4-2 victory over Englandin Stockholm.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s side travel to the Swedish capital next March in their next Group C game, and will face a striker who shows no signs of losing his touch in front of goal.

The Paris St Germain forward capped his stunning individual display with a stunning overhead volley as Sweden opened their new Friends Arena against an England side, who had six players making debuts and Steven Gerrard winning his 100th cap.

Ibrahimovic scored the first goal in the new stadium after 20 minutes when he powered the ball into the roof of the net and then equalised after 77 minutes, volleying an unstoppable shot past Joe Hart.

He completed his hat-trick by firing low past Hart after 84 minutes to put Sweden back in front and capped his performance with an incredible angled left-footed overhead kick, an immediate contender for the goal of the season.

England cancelled out his first goal when Danny Welbeck scored after 35 minutes, and Steven Caulker, one of the six debutants, scored his first goal for England three minutes later after a superb free kick from Gerrard.

Caulker, Leon Osman and 17-year-old Raheem Sterling all started for the first time, while Ryan Shawcross, Carl Jenkinson and Wilfried Zaha came on for their first caps as substitutes as Roy Hodgson lost for the first time in 12 matches as England manager.

Group C leaders Germanyhad to settle for a 0-0 draw against old foes Netherlandsdespite dominating possession in a friendly international in Amsterdam.

Mario Goetze was twice denied by Dutch defender John Heitinga midway through the first half while Marco Reus shot just wide for the Germans.

Netherlands' only good chance came in the second period when Daryl Janmaat’s fine effort was blocked by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer.

The Dutch also suffered a blow when Schalke 04’s Ibrahim Afellay limped off injured.

Didier Drogba was on the scoresheet as the Ivory Coastbeat Austria3-0 in Linz, with the other goals coming from Didier Ya Konan and Lacina Traore.

Bafetimbi Gomis came off the bench to give Francea surprise 2-1 victory over Euro 2012 runners-up Italyin a entertaining friendly in Parma.

Italy started brightly and almost opened the scoring through Mario Balotelli who linked up with strike partner Stephan El Shaarawy before crashing a long-range drive against the bar in the ninth minute.

Manchester City forward Mario Balotelli was at the heart of most of the home attacks and it was his smart flick which led to Cesare Prandelli's side taking the lead on 35 minutes.

Riccardo Montolivo took a pass from Balotelli and fed Stephan El Shaarawy who calmly slipped the ball under keeper Hugo Lloris to claim his first Italy goal.

Didier Deschamps's French side were second best but they equalised two minutes later thanks to a special goal.

Mathieu Valbuena skipped past Marco Verratti and Andrea Barzagli on the left before cutting inside and curling a superb strike into the top corner.

France then started to improved and deservedly took the lead after 67 minutes. Jeremy Menez did well down the left before cutting the ball back to Patrice Evra who hit the ball across the goal for substitute Gomis to tap in.

Sunderland’s Jordan Rhodes hit a first-half double as an attack-minded Scotlandside began life after Craig Levein with a 2-1 victory in Luxembourg.

Rhodes, who scored a hat-trick for Scotland Under-21s on his previous trip to the Stade Josy Barthel, headed home from close range on 10 minutes and then slotted a simple second.

However, Scotland failed to build on their half-time lead and survived some nervous moments after Lars Gerson’s well-placed free-kick brought Luxembourg back into the game just after the break.

Lionel Messi failed in his bid to set an outright record for the most Argentinagoals in a calendar year as his side were held 0-0 by Frank Rijkaard’s Saudi Arabiain Riyadh.

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 former striker Gabriel Batistuta.

The 112th-ranked Saudis, coached by Dutchman Rijkaard who gave Messi his Barcelona debut in 2004, defended in numbers and frequently troubled Argentina with quick breaks.

The home team had the ball in the net when defender Mohammed al-Sahlawi headed a free kick past goalkeeper Sergio Romero in the 28th minute but were unlucky to see a marginal offside decision go against them.

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