Joel Ekstrand’s performances with Watford have been rewarded with a call-up to the Sweden squad for next week’s friendly against Argentina.
The on-loan Udinese defender is in line to win his second cap against a star-studded squad led by four-time world football of the year Lionel Messi, Real Madrid players Gonzalo Higuain and Angel Di Maria, as well Manchester City duo Sergio Aguero and Pablo Zabaleta.
The 23-year-old has become a key figure in the Hornets’ defensive back three as Gianfranco Zola’s men have risen up to fourth in the Championship table, and has started their last 15 matches in all competitions.
Asked about the prospect of facing the record-breaking Barcelona forward, Ekstrand told fotbollskanalen.se: "I have yet to see someone who has been able to stop him so it's not easy."
The friendly takes place next Wednesday at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, with Ekstrand looking to add to his only previous international appearance against Syria.
Sweden squad: Goalkeepers: Andreas Isaksson (Kasimpasa); Kristoffer Nordfeldt (Heerenveen). Defenders: Mikael Antonsson (Bologna); Joel Ekstrand (Watford); Andreas Granqvist (Genoa); Adam Johansson (Seattle); Mikael Lustig (Celtic); Jonas Olsson (West Bromwich Albion); Martin Olsson, (Blackburn Rovers); Behrang Safari (Anderlecht). Midfield/forwards: Jimmy Durmaz (Kayserispor); Rasmus Elm (CSKA Moscow); Johan Elmander (Galatasaray); Samuel Holmén (Istanbul BB); Tobias Hysén (IFK Göteborg); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Paris Saint-Germain); Alexander Kacaniklic (Fulham); Kim Källström (Spartak Moscow); Sebastian Larsson (Sunderland); Mathias Ranégie (Udinese); Anders Svensson (Elfsborg); Pontus Wernbloom (CSKA Moscow).
Argentina squad: Lionel Messi (Barcelona); Javier Mascherano (Barcelona); Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid); Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid); Fernando Gago (Valencia); Ever Banega (Valencia); Augusto Fernandez (Celta Vigo); Cristian Dario Alvarez (Espanyol); Federico Fernandez (Napoli); Hugo Campagnaro (Napoli); Sergio Romero (Sampdoria); Mariano Andujar (CSS Catania); Ezequiel Lavezzi (Paris Saint-Germain); Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City); Sergio Agüero (Manchester City); Fabricio Coloccini (Newcastle United); Franco Di Santo (Wigan Athletic); Ezequiel Garay (Benfica); Enzo Perez (Benfica); Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica); Fabian Rinaudo, (Sporting Lisbon); Cristian Ansaldi (Rubin Kazan); Walter Montillo (Santos).