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Rediff.com  » Sports » Friendlies: Brazil slump to Swiss loss, Argentina beat Italy

Friendlies: Brazil slump to Swiss loss, Argentina beat Italy

August 15, 2013 11:39 IST

Friendlies: Brazil slump to Swiss loss, Argentina beat Italy

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Tetchy Brazil were upset 1-0 in Switzerland while Argentina beat Italy 2-1 even without Lionel Messi on a mostly successful night for South American teams in friendlies ahead of next month's World Cup qualifiers.

Paraguay, bottom of their qualifying group and with almost no hope of reaching a fifth World Cup finals in a row, managed a shock 3-3 draw away to an unusually sloppy Germany side on coach Victor Genes's debut.

A largely experimental Spain team earned a 2-0 away win over Ecuador to keep the European flag flying in the steamy Pacific port city of Guayaquil with goals from Alvaro Negredo and Santi Cazorla for the world champions.

England, by no means sure of a direct berth into the World Cup finals, fought back twice for a 3-2 win over Scotland at Wembley in an enthralling first clash between the bitter rivals since 1999.

In the night's only World Cup qualifier, Russia blew a chance to overtake Portugal at the top of European Group F when they were upset 1-0 by Northern Ireland in Belfast, Martin Paterson scoring the only goal two minutes before halftime.


Image: Marcelo of Brazil (R) is challenged by Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland during the international friendly match between Switzerland and Brazil at St. Jakob Stadium
Photographs: Daniel Kopatsch/Getty Images

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Higuain leads Argentina's charge

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The 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil, fresh from their Confederations Cup triumph, were disappointing in Berne where they failed to recover from a Dani Alves own goal just after the interval.

Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari argued that his team were less prepared than the Swiss for an international date at the end of the mid-year off-season.

Argentina, missing captain Messi due to muscle fatigue, won their first meeting with Italy for 12 years with striker Gonzalo Higuain, a fine successor to Gabriel Batistuta, opening their account with his 21st goal in 34 internationals.

Substitute midfielder Ever Banega added the second before Lorenzo Insigne pulled one back in the match in Rome in honour of Argentine-born Pope Francis and preceded on Monday by the visit of both teams to the Vatican.

"When Leo's there we have extra potential up front but we were able to play and win without him," midfielder Angel Di Maria told reporters referring to Messi.


Image: Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain (L) celebrates after scoring as Italy's players react during their international friendly soccer match at the Olympic Stadium in Rome
Photographs: Giampiero Sposito/Reuters

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Late Ronaldo goal gives Portugal draw with Dutch

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A late Cristiano Ronaldo tap-in salvaged a 1-1 home draw for an injury-ravaged Portugal side against the Netherlands in a lukewarm friendly in the Algarve stadium on Wednesday.

The Dutch, boasting a perfect record of six wins out six in World Cup qualifying Group D, drew first blood through midfielder Kevin Strootman who fired in a clean left-foot shot from just outside the box after 17 minutes.

Portugal lacked inspiration in the first half as coach Paulo Bento was forced to line up a makeshift midfield due to injuries to several players including Joao Moutinho, Nani and Silvestre Varela.

But the hosts reacted to the goal and pressed on in the second half, getting their reward five minutes before the final whistle when captain Ronaldo pounced on a corner and levelled with an easy finish.

"After so many changes to the initial squad call-up due to injuries I am satisfied with our football and the competitive rhythm displayed," Bento told Portuguese television RTP.

The packed 30,000-strong Algarve stadium, located in the popular tourist region of southern Portugal, had many holiday travellers in the stands but those rooting for the home side were made to wait.

Although Portugal reacted after going behind, and Ronaldo had a lobbed goal disallowed for offside, they lacked efficiency up front for most of the match.


Image: Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo (L) controls the ball next to the Netherlands' Daley Blind during their international friendly soccer match
Photographs: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

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Ibrahimovic scores a hat-trick in Swedish victory

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Another of the world's leading strikers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, got a hat-trick as Sweden beat neighbours Norway 4-2 in Stockholm.

He was, though, pipped for goal of the night by veteran Anders Svensson who hammered home a twisting, dipping shot for their fourth in his 142nd international.

U.S. forward Jozy Altidore also scored three goals as Juergen Klinsmann's side came back from two goals down to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 4-3 in Sarajevo.


Image: Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic (front) controls the ball against Norway's Tom Hogli during their international friendly soccer match
Photographs: Leif R. Jansson/Scanpix/Reuters

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Dream debut for Lambert

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England striker Rickie Lambert only scored once but it was a dream international debut for the substitute at the age of 31 as he scored the winner against Scotland with his first touch by heading home a corner seconds after coming on.

"I've been dreaming of that all my life, it mans so much," said an elated Lambert.

Montenegro, who lead European Group H by two points ahead of England having played a game more, were held 1-1 by Belarus in Zhodino.

Colombia beat Serbia 1-0 in Barcelona with a late goal from midfielder Fredy Guarin while Uruguay and Chile, direct rivals for places at the 2014 finals, enjoyed high-scoring victories.

Diego Forlan netted two first half goals as Uruguay won 4-2 in Japan with unsettled Liverpool striker Luis Suarez also on the scoresheet as both players increased their joint record national team tally to 36 each.

Chile crushed hapless Iraq 6-0 in Denmark with Alexis Sanchez in fine form, scoring twice and laying on two goals for winger Jean Beausejour.


Image: Rickie Lambert of England scores a goal during the International Friendly match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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