Highlights: International friendlies, 17 November 2010

Messi celebrating his last minute winner against Brazil.
On Wednesday the eyes of the football world were on Doha, Qatar. Argentina faced Brazil for the first time since they were humiliatingly beaten 1-3 in Rosario on 6 September 2009 during their torrid World Cup qualification campaign. Both teams had changed manager since the last meeting, Mano Menezes replaced Dunga as Brazil coach after their exit from the World Cup at the quarter final stage and Sergio Batista was officially appointed as the Argentina coach at the beginning of November.

Argentina won the game in the 92nd minute with an excellent goal from Lionel Messi, to give the "Albicelestes" their first win against Brazil with Messi in the team. The contribution of 2nd half substitute Ezequiel Lavezzi cannot be discounted, he was the most exciting player in the second half and his back-heel to set Messi on his way was as good as Messi's finish.

This may have been only be a friendly match but the pressure was on both teams. Argentina desperately need to establish a good run of form going into the Copa América 2011 which they will host. With no qualification tournament for Copa América, international friendlies will be their only preparation. The pressure on Brazil comes from the fans, despite the fact that Dunga led Brazil to the Copa América in 2007 and the 2009 Confederations Cup a large proportion of Brazilian supporters complained about the lack of flair in the team and Dunga's insistence on using two holding midfield players. Brazil did not need to win this particular game as much as Argentina, as their focus is on the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, however they did not play with the attacking flair and inventiveness that the Brazilian supporters expect of their national team. if they fail to find a combination of attractive winning football soon the fans are sure to turn on Mano Menezes.

Both teams have had problems to overcome, most football followers would be able to identify Argentina's defence as their weakness, there were changes at the back for Argentina with Zanetti and Samuel back in the team, but two of the main culprits at the World Cup, Demichelis and Heinze keep their places in the squad. The only defender that cannot be considered part of the old guard is 24 year old Spartak Moscow defender Nicolás Pareja, who started the game and had a reasonably solid performance. He was beaten for pace a couple of times by Brazil's latest wonderkid; Neymar, but each time Neymar failed to find a decent cross or pass.

Neymar was one of 8 players in the Brazil squad playing for Brazilian clubs, the only South American based player in the Argentina squad was Andrés D'Alessandro of Brazilian side Internacional, who came on in the 2nd half.

As usual the Argentine midfield and forward line was packed with attacking talent, the team benefited from the inclusion of exciting young players like Valencia's Ever Banega, Palermo's Javier Pastore and Benfica's Angel Di Maria as well as established players like Messi, Mascherano and Higuaín

The main talking point in the Brazil squad was the inclusion of Ronaldinho, who's most notable contribution was a cheeky back-heel shot that went straight into the hands of Argentina goalkeeper Romero. The only other outstanding chance the Brazilians had was a half volley from Dani Alves that hit the bar. Messi came close to opening the scoring in the first half with an outstanding long range shot that clipped the angle of crossbar and post.

The second half saw the introduction of Lavezzi who seemed to have a little more industry and determination than Javier Pastore. As Ronaldinho was withdrawn midway through the 2nd half the ESPN commentators were making it out to be his final moment in a Brazil shirt, but at the age of 30 that seems a little premature. His replacement Douglas was making his Brazil debut at the age of 28.

The game seemed to be petering out into a stale 0-0 draw when Brazil gave the ball away childishly in midfield with only a minute or so of injury time remaining, Messi and Lavezzi combined and Messi scored a famous goal to get his first taste of victory against the Brazilians.

It is hard to learn anything new from this game. We all knew that Messi is brilliant, Ronaldinho is a shadow of the player he was, Lavezzi is one of Argentina's in form players and Neymar has a lot of potential. The little that could be gleaned from this game is that for some reason Alex Ferguson is backing Qatar's bid to host the 2022 World Cup, that Qatar only has a population of 1.7 million and that if their match day security team can't catch an overweight pitch invader wearing sandals they will struggle to deal with tens of thousands of drunken Englishmen, assuming that England actually qualify.

Argentina squad

Goalkeepers: Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar), Mariano Andujar (Catania);

Defenders: Gabriel Milito (Barcelona), Walter Samuel (Inter Milan), Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan), Nicolas Burdisso (Roma), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich), Nicolas Pareja (Spartak Moscow), Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City), Gabriel Heinze (Marseille);

Midfielders: Mario Bolatti (Fiorentina), Lucas Biglia (Anderlecht), Ever Banega (Valencia), Javier Mascherano (Barcelona), Javier Pastore (Palermo), Andres D'Alessandro (Internacional), Jose Sosa (Napoli), Angel Di Maria (Real Madrid);

Forwards: Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid), Diego Milito (Inter Milan), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli), Carlos Tevez (Manchester City), Nicolas Gaitan (Benfica)

Brazil squad

Goalkeepers: Jefferson (Botafogo), Neto (Atletico Paranaense) Victor (Gremio)

Defenders: Andre Santos (Fenerbahce), Daniel Alves (Barcelona), David Luiz (Benfica), Rafael da Silva (Manchester United), Rever (Atletico Mineiro), Thiago Silva (AC Milan), Adriano Correa (Barcelona), Alex (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Ronaldinho (AC Milan), Jucilei (Corinthians), Lucas Leiva (Liverpool), Ramires (Chelsea), Sandro (Tottenham), Douglas (Gremio), Philippe Coutinho (Inter Milan), Elias (Corinthians)

Forwards: Neymar (Santos), Alexandre Pato (AC Milan), Robinho (AC Milan), Andre (Dynamo Kiev)

Other games

Chile marked Marcelo Bielsa's last game in charge with a 2-0 win against Uruguay. Bielsa has stepped down for political reasons and considering the huge progress made by the Chileans since he took over, whoever takes over as manager will have a hell of a job to stop Chile regressing.

Peru and Colombia both had disappointing World Cup qualification campaigns and under new managers they will be hoping that they can make substantial improvements before Copa América kicks off in 2011. Both sides can take positives from their 1-1 draw, Peru scored an absolute blinder of a goal and apart from conceding to a wonder strike Colombia looked reasonably solid.

Cristian Benítez and Walter Ayovi hit a pair of goals each in a convincing 4-1 win for Ecuador against Venezuela.

I'm not sure what Paraguay thought they were going to learn from playing Hong Kong, they won 0-7 and the 3rd goal illustrates the calibre of opponent they chose to face in their last game of 2010.

Results


17-11-10
Hong Kong 0-7 Paraguay
Argentina 1-0 Brazil
Chile 2-0 Uruguay
Colombia 1-1 Peru
Ecuador 4-1 Venezuela

For more South American football highlights, including the Argentine and Brazilian leagues, the pick of the rest and international tournaments:

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