Argentina set the record straight against Brazil on Wednesday evening, beating their arch rivals for the first time in five years. Elsewhere Spain slumped to a shock 4-0 defeat in Portugal and France outclassed England to earn a notable 2-1 win at Wembley.
Meanwhile Italy and Germany were held to respective draws against Romania and Sweden after fielding much-changed line-ups. FIFA.com reports on those matches and more on a busy day of international action.
Match of the day
Argentina 1-0 Brazil
Goal: Lionel Messi 90
Sergio Batista celebrated his recent confirmation as Argentina boss by overseeing the country’s first victory over Brazil in six attempts, a barren run stretching back over five years. Argentina’s matchwinner in Qatar was Lionel Messi, who did his standing with Albiceleste fans a power of good by scoring the only goal of the game in stoppage time. Linking up to great effect with Javier Pastore throughout the match, the Barcelona man had already gone close on a couple of occasions when a cute one-two with Ezequiel Lavezzi near the halfway line had him bearing down on the Auriverde rearguard once more. Evading the attentions of two back-tracking defenders, the fleet-footed Messi fashioned some space for himself on the left side of the box before placing a precise cross-shot into the back of the net. Messi’s star turn overshadowed a fine first-half display by Brazilian prodigy Neymar, while playmaker Ronaldinho, who acquitted himself well on his return to A Seleção, went close with a well-aimed free-kick.
The other matches
Laurent Blanc’s France continued their renaissance by strolling to a 2-1 win over a depleted and strangely lethargic England side at Wembley. With Yoann Gourcuff and Samir Nasri directing operations in midfield, Les Bleus looked well-balanced in all departments, with Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena firing the goals that gave Blanc’s increasingly impressive side a deserved win. And although substitute Peter Crouch pulled a goal back for the hosts only a minute after coming on, the French rarely looked troubled.
Joachim Low’s experimental Germany side played out a goalless draw in Sweden in a low-key encounter that will have offered him few conclusions, while a makeshift Italy team drew 1-1 with a visibly motivated Romania in Klagenfurt, Austria. Fielding four uncapped and three recalled players, the Italians turned in a disjointed first-half performance but recovered after the break, with Fabio Quagliarella hitting their equaliser.
Helder Postiga struck a brace as Portugal crushed Spain 4-0 in Lisbon, giving them a measure of revenge for their South Africa 2010 elimination at the hands of the world champions.
Falling some way short of their best form, the Netherlands had to apply themselves to overcome Guus Hiddink’s stubborn Turkey side in Amsterdam, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scoring the only goal of the night. Meanwhile, Alexander Frei proved his worth to Switzerland’s once again by firing both their goals in a 2-2 draw with Ukraine.
Belgium’s teenage sensation Romelu Lukaku hit a double of his own in a powerhouse display as Belgium brushed aside Russia 2-0, and China continued their recent progress by scoring late on to see off Latvia 1-0.
Another side putting some good results together are Bosnia-Herzegovina, who nosed past Slovakia 3-2. Egypt cruised to a 3-0 win over Australia, while fellow north Africans Morocco came within an ace of beating Northern Ireland in Belfast, with Marouane Chamakh giving the visitors the lead before the men in green hit back with a late Rory Patterson penalty. And there was no joy for Côte d'Ivoire in Poland as Robert Lewandoski scored twice to help consign the Elephants to a 3-1 reverse.
Hong Kong could be excused for seeing double against Paraguay as Roque Santa Cruz, Nestor Ortigoza and Cristian Riveros all scored twice to see the South Americans ease to a 7-0 victory. USA enjoyed a profitable trip to South Africa, returning home with a 1-0 win under their belts, and Greece and Georgia also won on the road, collecting respective 2-1 wins in Austria and Slovenia.
Also on the day’s card were two UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying matches. A Niko Kranjcar double helped Croatia dispose of Malta 3-0 and move to the top of Group F, while Finland collected their first points in Group E by racking up eight goals without reply against San Marino, with Mikael Forssell scoring a hat-trick.
Goal of the day
England 0-1 France (Karim Benzema 16)
Picking up possession on the left edge of the penalty box, Karim Benzema shook off the attentions of his marker by playing a neat one-two with Florent Malouda before rifling the Chelsea man’s return pass just inside Ben Foster’s right-hand post.
Player of the day
Netherlands striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored for the fifth consecutive match for his country, matching Johan Neeskens’ achievement in 1974. The Schalke 04 front man still has some way to go to catch up with Noud van Melis, who made eight straight goalscoring appearances for the Dutch between 1950 and 1952.
6 - The number of defeats England have suffered since Fabio Capello took over as coach. In 33 games the Italian has also presided over 22 wins and five draws.
What they said
“Thank God we’ve got a player like Leo. He can win games single-handed,” Argentina captain Javier Mascherano.
Have your say
Can France climb their way back into the top ten of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking?