Messi on target as Argentina beats Brazil 1-0

Lionel Messi scored last-gasp injury time goal to give Argentina

a 1-0 victory over Brazil in a friendly between the two South

American rivals on Wednesday.

A match of few clearcut chances was heading for a goalless draw

until Messi went on a trademark run in the second minute of

stoppage time, with the 2009 world player of the year sidestepping

two Brazil defenders before slotting the ball past goalkeeper

Victor.

Brazil last beat Argentina 3-1 in a World Cup qualifier in 2009

and hadn’t lost to its rivals in an international in five years.

Argentina did beat Brazil on the way to winning gold in the 2008

Beijing Olympics.

”Messi means everything to us. In the first minute, he showed

why he’s the best player in the world,” said Argentina coach

Sergio Batista, who took over after Maradona was dropped just weeks

after Argentina was defeated 4-0 by Germany in the World Cup

quarterfinals.

Messi’s goal was the highlight of an otherwise sluggish match,

with both sides pressing but neither able to finish. Messi showed

signs of an early threat when the Barcelona forward combined some

clever passes with solo runs.

Brazil’s best chance came in the 16th minute when Daniel Alves

hit the bar with a shot from inside the area.

Ronaldinho, making his Brazil return after nearly 18 months, had

several several good chances. A free kick had to be punched away by

Sergio Romero, and he almost found the net with a back-heel.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes, who watched his side’s first defeat

since he took over following its World Cup disappointment, said he

thought his team deserved a draw, even though it lacked ”quality

finishes.”

”It’s awful but we have to assess the game as whole. The team

had a good posture,” he said. ”To be even would be more fair.

Unfortunately, they scored at the end of the game which was bad,

but the lesson has been good.”

Menezes said he was happy with Ronaldinho’s performance and only

took him off in the 72nd minute because the playmaker appeared

tired. He had not played for Brazil since a World Cup qualifier

against Peru in 2009.

”First of all, he had a good match,” Menezes said. ”He took

responsibility to create most of the plays we had. We did good

bringing him out here.”

Ronaldinho said he was glad to be playing again for the national

team, alongside younger stars like AC Milan’s Robinho and Neymar of

Santos.

”I had a great first half but felt a bit tired in the second

half,” Ronaldinho said. ”I just did what the manager asked me to

do, which was create plays. I tried to do my best.”

Argentina captain Gonzalo Higuain felt the game was fairly even

and Brazil was ”lucky to score a goal in the last minute.”

The match was a chance for the tiny desert nation of Qatar to

further promote its bid for the 2022 World Cup.

Brazil’s Ricardo Teixeira and Argentina’s Julio Grondona are on

the FIFA executive committee, which will vote on Dec. 2 on the

hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The Qatar Football

Association also invited as many as 20 heads of federations from

Africa, who attended the match and a nearby sports conference.

However, Qatar is being investigated for alleged corruption in

the bidding race/ FIFA’s ethics panel is set to announce its

decision on Thursday.

FIFA has not named the two bids under suspicion, but FIFA

President Sepp Blatter’s former right-hand man, Michel

Zen-Ruffinen, was shown telling Sunday Times reporters posing as

lobbyists that Qatar and Spain-Portugal arranged to secure seven of

the 24 votes.

Lineups:

Brazil: Victor, Andre Santos, Daniel Alves, David Luiz, Thiago

Silva, Elias, Lucas Leiva, Ramires (Jucilei, 85), Ronaldinho

(Douglas, 72), Robinho, Neymar (Andre, 77).

Argentina: Sergio Romero, Gabriel Heinze, Nicolas Burdisso,

Nicolas Pareja, Javier Zanetti, Angel Di Maria, Javier Mascherano,

Ever Banega, Javier Pastore (Andres D’Alessandro, 70), Gonzalo

Higuain (Ezequiel Lavezzi, 45), Lionel Messi.