Messi outshines Ronaldo
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.
Image: Argentina's Lionel Messi celebrates his goal during their international friendly soccer match against Portugal
Netherlands cruise to 3-1 win over Austria
World Cup runners-up Netherlands cruised to a 3-1 home win over Austria in an international friendly on Wednesday.
Wesley Sneijder opened the scoring in the 28th minute with a fine volley over goalkeeper Juergen Macho after combining well with Theo Janssen to get through the Austrian defence.
Early in the second half Klaas Jan Huntelaar doubled the lead with his 10th goal in his last six matches when he got the ball in at the near post after Macho misjudged a cross from left back Erik Pieters.
Dirk Kuyt added a third from the penalty spot 20 minutes from time, while Marko Arnautovic followed suit at the other end with six minutes remaining to give the visitors a consolation goal.
The Dutch had been playing without regular starters Rafael van der Vaart, Nigel de Jong and Robin van Persie, who had withdrawn from the squad.
Image: Wesley Sneijder of the Netherlands (L) shoots the ball, while teammate Dirk Kuyt watches, during their international friendly soccer match against Austria in Eindhoven
Late Silva lining for Spain in win over Colombia
David Silva came off the bench to rescue Spain's night and give the world champions a 1-0 win in a friendly at home to Colombia on Wednesday.
The home side looked to be heading for a frustrating draw until the Manchester City midfielder, who had replaced Xabi Alonso 10 minutes earlier, poked the ball past David Ospina in the 86th minute.
David Villa, who is Spain's joint leading goalscorer on 44 with Raul, had come closest to scoring when he struck a shot against the post in the 15th minute and then missed the open goal from a tight angle from the rebound.
Victory for Spain ends a poor run of form in friendlies. They slipped to a 4-1 defeat in Argentina in September and a 4-0 loss in Portugal two months later after drawing 1-1 with Mexico in August.
There was a carnival atmosphere at Real Madrid's packed Bernabeu stadium, with thousands of Colombians vying with the Spanish to provide the noisiest support for their teams.
The visitors, playing Spain for the only the second time after a 1-1 draw in a friendly in Bogota in 1981, struggled to get the ball in the early stages as the hosts quickly settled into a rhythm.
After Villa's effort and a chance for Colombia's Abel Aguilar, there was scarcely any goalmouth action until Pablo Armero beat two challenges in first-half added time and struck a shot with the outside of his boot that flew narrowly wide.
The second half was a similar story and Spain coach Vicente del Bosque and his Colombian counterpart Hernan Dario Gomez made a slew of changes that broke up the flow of the match.
The Spanish players made some uncharacteristic errors to surrender possession and substitutes Juan Guillermo Cuadrado and Hugo Rodallega both went close before Silva struck the winner.
The game was being played in aid of the Spanish soccer players' union (AFE), with some of the proceeds to be used to buy defibrillators for lower-league clubs.
European champions Spain continue their qualification bid for Euro 2012 on March 25 at home to the Czech Republic and four days later visit Lithuania. They top Group I with three wins from three.
Image: Spain's David Silva (R) celebrates with team mate Jesus Navas after scoring a goal against Colombia
Benzema gives France victory over 10-man Brazil
France stepped up their post-World Cup revival with a 1-0 win over 10-man Brazil on Wednesday, Karim Benzema scoring the only goal at the Stade de France.
The Real Madrid forward, left unattended in the middle of the box, netted the winner in the 55th minute after a perfect cross from the left by Jeremy Menez.
That concluded a good spell of pressure by the home side, who struggled at times at the scene of their 1998 World Cup final triumph over Brazil before Hernanes was sent off in the 40th minute for kicking Benzema.
After the interval, France, who are regaining their form after last year's first-round exit and off-field controversies at the World Cup in South Africa, put on a more spirited display.
Both teams in fact had World Cups to forget, with Brazil bundled out by the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but they have been showing signs of improvement with rejuvenated teams.
Brazil had the upper hand in the first half, Mano Menezes's men creating chances through Alexandre Pato and captain Robinho following poor clearances by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
France, who shocked Brazil 3-0 to win the World Cup in 1998, began to find their feet in the second half and goalkeeper Julio Cesar was put under more and more pressure.
The breakthrough came 10 minutes after the interval when Benzema once again rewarded the faith shown in him by Laurent Blanc, despite average performances for Real Madrid, with the game's only goal.
Image: France's Karim Benzema reacts after scoring goal against Brazil
Rossi goal salvages draw for Italy
Italy substitute Giuseppe Rossi struck nine minutes from time to salvage a 1-1 draw against Germany in a friendly on Wednesday as the two European powerhouses prepared for their Euro 2012 qualifiers.
The hosts were in superb form in the first half, dictating play with their quick passing game as Italy defended in numbers.
Germany forward Miroslav Klose's 16th-minute goal looked to have handed them their first win over Italy in 16 years in the same Dortmund stadium where they lost to them in extra time in the 2006 World Cup semi-finals.
The Italians, with goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and Antonio Cassano back in the team, and Brazil-born midfielder Thiago Motta in his first start after playing for Brazil's Under-23 side, improved in the second half.
Substitutes Marco Borriello and Alberto Aquilani added some pace and missed a good chance each before Rossi beat the offside trap to put the ball past keeper Manuel Neuer in the 81st minute.
Both teams are on track to qualify for Euro 2012 with Germany topping Group A and Italy in control of Group C.
Image: (L to R) Italy's Marco Borriello, Christian Maggio, Giuseppe Rossi and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon react after their international friendly soccer match against Germany in Dortmund
'It is a shame that we conceded that goal'
The hosts started strongly and Klose, languishing on the Bayern Munich bench this season with one goal in nine league games, repaid Loew's trust when the Germans sliced open the tight Italian defence with a dazzling nine-pass combination.
Real Madrid playmaker Mesut Ozil then found Thomas Mueller in the box with a back heel pass and he cut the ball unselfishly for his Bayern team mate to score his 59th goal in 106 appearances, nine off Gerd Mueller's all-time German record.
Klose could have doubled their lead minutes later but was denied by Buffon from close range as the Italians slowly moved upfield, pressing the Germans in their own half.
The four-times World Cup winners levelled in the 81st minute when some sloppy defending by teenager Mario Goetze allowed Daniele De Rossi to pick out Rossi who saw his first shot from 14 metres saved before slotting in on the rebound.
"The Italians defended well but if we were a bit more patient we could have won it," Germany midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. "It is a shame that we conceded that goal."
Image: Germany's Miroslav Klose (2nd L) celebrates a goal against Italy with teammates Mesut Oezil (L), Thomas Muller (2nd R) and Sami Khedira (R) during their international friendly in Dortmund
Young goal gives England rare victory in Denmark
Ashley Young's debut international goal gave England their first victory in Denmark since 1978 after hitting back from a goal down in a friendly which see-sawed throughout.
Young came off the bench to supply a nerveless finish in the 68th minute and secure the win after Daniel Agger had headed Denmark into an early lead only for Darren Bent to equalise almost immediately.
The night was notable for two promising performances from young midfielders on opposite sides.
The 19-year-old Jack Wilshere put in an assured display in a deep midfield role for England, hinting of better things to come without really catching fire.
While Wilshere was assured, he was outshone by the 18-year-old Christian Eriksen, who came closest to a goal to crown an outstanding display when he slammed a shot off the foot of a post in the first half after good work by Nicklas Bendtner.
England, who face Wales in a Euro 2012 qualifier next month, made a ragged start and fell behind when Eriksen fired in a cross from the right and Agger flashed a glancing header past Joe Hart.
The Danes held the lead for just two minutes as England responded in style, with Theo Walcott robbing Simon Poulsen on the right and crossing to give Bent an easy finish.
In his first game as England captain, Frank Lampard had the ball in the net in the 41st minute, only to have the goal ruled out for offside.
England made three substitutions at the break and immediately got a grip on the Danes, dominating possession. The best of the chances fell to Bent, who forced Thomas Sorensen into a number of fine saves.
Dennis Rommedahl could have put Denmark back on top in the 64th minute but fired straight at the keeper after the lively Eriksen had set him up with a cheeky backheel.
Instead, Young scored what proved to be England's winner in the 68th minute, placing the ball past Sorensen after Glen Johnson had dispossessed Michael Krohn-Dehli in midfield.
Image: England 's Ashley Young (2nd R) celebrates after scoring against Denmark during their international friendly soccer match at the Parken Stadium, in Copenhagen