Lionel Messi won his personal duel with his great rival Cristiano Ronaldo lighting up Argentina’s 2-1 win over Portugal by making one goal and scoring the winner in a lively friendly international in Geneva on Wednesday.
Messi, Fifa’s World Player of the Year for the last two years, and Ronaldo, who won the award in 2008, were both on the scoresheet but Ronaldo, who came off after an hour, ended up on the losing side as Messi gave the South Americans victory, scoring from the penalty spot after 89 minutes.
Coincidentally the hugely entertaining match was played in Geneva, a little over 24 hours after Europe’s most powerful clubs expressed their concerns at the amount of friendlies being played every year at their annual assembly in the Swiss city.
The managers of almost every important European club would have preferred this international date to have been dropped from the calendar, but more than 30,000 neutral Swiss braved a chilly night to watch one of more than 30 friendly matches which were being played around the world.
The most high profile games capturing the spotlight were in Europe where international managers, in contrast to their club counterparts, were happy to use the games as preparation for next month’s resumption of their Euro 2012 qualifiers.
World champions Spain swung back into action after the winter break with a 1-0 win over Colombia in Madrid thanks to a late winner from David Silva.
The victory ended a poor run of form for the Spaniards who lost 4-1 to Argentina and suffered a 4-0 defeat to Portugal in friendlies.
But although David Villa failed to get the goal that would have taken him past Raul’s all-time Spanish record of 44 goals, Silva came off the bench to score from close range in the 86th minute.
France continued their renaissance after their disappointing showing at the World Cup last year with a 1-0 win over Brazil in Paris in a re-match of the 1998 World Cup final which was also played at the Stade de France.
Karim Benzema scored the only goal 10 minutes after the break but Brazil played out the whole of the second half with 10 men after Anderson Hernandes was sent off shortly before halftime after a wild kick high into Benzema’s chest.
A re-match of another memorable World Cup match was played on Wednesday too.
Nearly five years after Italy beat Germany 2-0 after extra time in the 2006 World Cup semifinal in Dortmund, the two sides played out a rather more tame 1-1 draw.
Miroslav Klose put Germany ahead after 16 minutes with his 59th goal for his country in 106 appearances, nine off Gerd Mueller’s all-time German record.
But just when it seemed Germany might be on their way to beating Italy for the first time in 16 years, Italian substitute Giuseppe Rossi beat the offside trap nine minutes from time to equalise.
England, continuing to re-build after their dismal World Cup bounced back from their last outing when they lost to France when they came from behind to beat Denmark 2-1 in Copenhagen, their first win over the Danes since the 2002 World Cup finals and their first in Copenhagen since 1978.
Denmark took the lead at the Parken Stadium, where the roof was closed, with Daniel Agger, one of five players in the Dane’s starting line-up based in England, scoring with a superbly executed header after eight minutes.
England equalised two minutes later with a tap-in from Darren Bent, before his Aston Villa colleague Ashley Young scored his first goal for England after 68 minutes.
Ukraine, the co-hosts for next year’s European Championship with Poland, also had a good day.
Earlier, Fifa and UEFA eased the threat of suspension against them after Ukraine’s Football Federation (FFU), bowed to UEFA’s demands for the local governing body to drop calls for the departure of its long-time president Hrigory Surkis.
Then its national team emerged victorious from the annual winter four-team tournament in Cyprus after a 1-1 draw with Sweden and a 5-4 penalty shootout success.
Ukraine’s goal in normal time also came via a penalty, scored by Marco Devic who equalised Johan Elmander’s early goal for Sweden.
Fellow hosts Poland also won, beating Norway 1-0 in a match played in Portugal with Robert Lewandowski scoring the only goal after 19 minutes against an otherwise well organised Norway defence.
Russia, who have been basking in the success of landing the right to stage the 2018 World Cup finals in recent weeks, were brought down to earth on the field, beaten 1-0 by Iran in Abu Dhabi, who had Mohammad Reza Khalatbari sent off for removing his shirt in celebration after scoring their last minute winner.
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