Hit and miss Messi stars in victory over Germany
THE REPUBLIC of Ireland’s two main Group C rivals in the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers both suffered home defeats in glamour friendlies last night, with Germany falling 3-1 to Argentina and Sweden being easily defeated 3-0 by Brazil.
Lionel Messi missed a first-half penalty but made amends with a superb second-half goal as Argentina outclassed Joachim Loew’s side in Frankfurt.
An own goal by Sami Khedira gave Argentina the lead in first-half stoppage-time, Messi swept home the second early in the second half and Angel Di Maria blasted the third with an astonishing 35-metre drive. Benedikt Hoewedes headed Germany’s late consolation.
Germany played for nearly one hour with 10 men after goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was sent off for hauling down Jose Sand in the incident which led to the penalty.
Marc-Andre Ter Stegen came on for his second cap and, with his first touch, dived to his left to save Messi’s weakly-taken penalty in the 31st minute.
Two goals from substitute Alexandre Pato helped Brazil to a 3-0 win over Sweden in the final international game at Stockholms Rasunda stadium.
After losing the Olympic final to Mexico last Saturday, Brazil returned to the stadium where a 17-year-old Pele had inspired them to their first World Cup in 1958 and were dominant against the Swedes.
Pele, watching from the stands, was welcomed back to Stockholm with open arms but Santos forward Neymar was given a harder time of it as the Swedes sought to get to grips with his incisive dribbling and passing.
The 20-year-old had already had a goal disallowed for offside by the time he drifted in and launched a deft cross for fellow forward Leandro Damiao to head home to open the scoring.
He continued to torment the Swedish defenders until he was substituted late in the second half but there was to be no respite as Pato netted two goals in three minutes.
Pato doubled the lead in the 85th minute when he headed home from close range after good work by Dani Alves. The AC Milan striker then converted a penalty two minutes later after being brought down in the area.
Austria had a 2-0 home win over Turkey, with both the goals coming early on. Veli Kavlak gave them the lead after just two minutes, with Andreas Ivanschitz added the second from the spot four minutes later.
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal started his second spell in charge with a 4-2 defeat by neighbours Belgium in Brussels. The Dutch made a stuttering start and fell behind after 20 minutes when Kevin Mirallas set up striker Christian Benteke to open the scoring.
The visitors equalised nine minutes into the second half when 20-year-old left-back Bruno Martins Indi found Arjen Robben who set up Luciano Narsingh to score. A minute later Martins Indi connected with Robben again and the winger found Huntelaar who put the visitors ahead.
But between the 75th and 80th minutes the young Dutch defence collapsed as Dries Mertens who equalised, Romelu Lukaku and new Tottenham signing Jan Vertonghen sealed the Dutch side’s fourth straight defeat, their first four-match losing streak since 1954.