Established elite fail to fire
© AFP

With the exception of Brazil, who delighted their flair-obsessed fans en route to a 2-0 win away to USA, the sport's heavyweights had an uncomfortable time of it on their return to international action.

Italy and France both lost - the former 1-0 at home to Côte d'Ivoire and the latter 2-1 in Norway - as the Netherlands and Germany were held in Ukraine and Denmark respectively. England and Argentina, meanwhile, fared marginally better. The Three Lions came from a goal behind to beat Hungary 2-1 at Wembley, while La Albiceleste edged Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Dublin. Other results of note on an action-packed night of friendlies were Greece's 1-0 success in Serbia and Cameroon's 3-0 defeat of Poland on their travels.

The big game
Republic of Ireland 0-1 Argentina
Goal: Angel Di Maria 21 (Argentina)


Interim coach Sergio Batista can be pleased with a job well done after Argentina came away with a victory at the end of a hard-fought match in Dublin. His young, attack-minded side were convincing, with Lionel Messi putting in a particularly effective 57-minute shift in a more central midfield role. Angel Di Maria grabbed the only goal of the night with a long range effort that went in off the bar, but after Messi went off, the South Americans were increasingly pinned back in their own half. The typically wholehearted Irish were very nearly rewarded with an equaliser too, in injury time.

Elsewhere
Ukraine 1-1 Netherlands
Goals: Oleksandr Aliyev 74 (Ukraine); Jeremain Lens 72 (Netherlands)
Runners-up in South Africa, a new-look Netherlands side struggled to find top gear in Ukraine, and let slip a lead, allowing Oleksandr Aliyev to reply just two minutes after Jermain Lens' 72nd minute opener.

Denmark 2-2 Germany
Goals: Dennis Rommedahl 74, Mads Junker 87 (Denmark); Mario Gomez 19, Patrick Helmes 73 (Germany)
Joachim Low's remodelled German side looked to be cruising to victory when Patrick Helmes fired them into a two-goal lead with just over a quarter of an hour remaining, but Denmark grabbed one back a minute later and Mads Junker sealed a great comeback three minutes from the end.

England 2-1 Hungary
Goals: Steven Gerrard 69 and 73 (England); Phil Jagielka 62 og (Hungary)
Fabio Capello can thank his captain Steven Gerrard for rescuing his side after they fell behind to a Phil Jagielka own goal. The Liverpool star took it upon himself to restore order and did so brilliantly, first with a stunning strike and then an adroit finish after a brilliant turn and burst in the area. That one-man show prevented the worst, but Capello knows he still has his work cut out to restore English pride.

Sweden 3-0 Scotland
Goals: Zlatan Ibrahimovic 4, Emir Barjami 39, Ola Toivonen 56 (Sweden)
Sweden never looked back after Zlatan Ibrahimovic handed them an early lead, giving themselves just the confidence boost they needed prior to UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. Scotland, in contrast, can take little comfort from a disappointing display.

Russia 1-0 Bulgaria
Goal: Roman Shirokov 6 (Russia)
Zenit Saint Petersburg midfielder Roman Shirokov's early strike gave Dick Advocaat a winning start at the helm of the Russian national side.

Poland 0-3 Cameroon
Goals: Samuel Eto'o 29, 52, Vincent Aboubakar 86 (Cameroon)
Samuel Eto'o was in typically lethal form in front of goal, as Cameroon brushed Poland aside.

Mexico 1-1 Spain
Goals: Javier Hernandez 12 (Mexico); David Silva 92 (Spain)
At a hot and humid Azteca Stadium, Manchester United's Javier Hernandez put Mexico ahead in the 12th minute, and it wasn't until injury time that David Silva delivered the equaliser for Spain to save the world champions blushes. Spain started only three players who began the 2010 FIFA World Cup Final against the Netherlands - goalkeeper Iker Casillas, defender Carles Puyol and midfielder Sergio Busquets.

Goal of the day
Norway 2-1 France
Goals: Erik Huseklepp 51, 71 (Norway); Hatem Ben Arfa 48 (France)
Marseille's Hatem Ben Arfa appeared to have little on when he received the ball fully 40 yards from goal, but given space to run and shoot, the young man did just that, firing an unstoppable low shot into the bottom right-hand corner of the net.

Player of the day
Estonia 2-1 Faroe Islands (Kaimar Saag 90, 91)
Estonian playmaker Kaimar Saag saved his side's blushes with two goals in added time to give his country a winning start to their UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying campaign.

The stat
1 - This was the first time Marco Tardelli had taken charge of the Republic of Ireland side, in the absence of Giovanni Trapattoni who was forced to miss the game due to a minor operation.

Have your say
What lessons can be learned from these early season friendlies?