Defeat for Scolari on return as Brazil coach
Luiz Felipe Scolari and Ronaldinho endured disappointing returns
to international football as Brazil lost 2-1 to England, while
Spain, Germany and Argentina all won high-profile friendlies on
Wednesday to justify their position as the world’s top three
World and European champion Spain stretched its unbeaten run to
17 games by beating Uruguay 3-1 in Doha, Germany came from behind
to beat France 2-1 away and Lionel Messi failed to score but played
a key role in Argentina’s 3-2 win over Sweden.
Scolari, who led Brazil to its fifth and most recent world title
in 2002, took charge of his first game in his second spell as coach
and handed Ronaldinho a recall to the team for his 100th cap.
The former Barcelona playmaker, who hadn’t played for Brazil for
a year, had an early penalty saved at Wembley Stadium before Wayne
Rooney and Frank Lampard scored goals to help England end a 23-year
winless record against the Brazilians.
”I’m used to losing the first game but after this I’m used to
winning games and winning competitions,” Scolari said. ”I’m not
disappointed and I’m not sad.”
Also, Marco Verratti scored a stoppage-time equalizer for Italy
in a 1-1 draw at the Netherlands and Cristiano Ronaldo scored in a
losing cause for Portugal, which was beaten 3-2 at home to
Spain and France were looking for confidence-boosting results
ahead of their meeting in a crucial World Cup qualifier next month
– and it was the top-ranked Spanish who will be more satisfied as
international football returned to the schedule for the first time
in 2013 with some glamorous matchups.
Pedro Rodriguez took his tally to nine goals in his last six
internationals by scoring twice in the second half after Cesc
Fabregas’ 16th-minute opener was canceled out by Cristian Rodriguez
in the 32nd.
”Uruguay defended well and was dangerous in counterattacks but
we played a good game,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said.
”Pedro made the difference for us in the second half.”
Spain was captained by Carles Puyol on the defender’s 100th
Germany hadn’t beaten France in their last five meetings and
needed a second-half turnaround to end that poor run.
Diminutive winger Mathieu Valbuena headed in from close range
just before halftime for France, but Thomas Mueller equalized in
the 51st and Sami Khedira scored the winner 16 minutes from time
for second-ranked Germany’s first win over the French in 26 years –
when it was still West Germany.
”It was our first big test of 2013, we played with a lot of
rhythm and showed some of the good things that were missing last
year,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Sweden’s home match with Argentina was being dubbed as a
head-to-head between strikers Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Messi, who
spent a year together at Barcelona before Ibrahimovic left for AC
Milan in 2010 after losing his place as center forward to
Neither scored at the Friends Arena but Messi – the four-time
world player of the year – had a bigger impact and even had a close
encounter with a pitch invader, who ran onto the pitch, embraced
the forward and kissed him on the forehead.
Mikael Lustig turned Gonzalo Higuain’s shot for Argentina’s
opening goal before Sergio Aguero and Higuain added further goals
after Jonas Olsson had equalized.
Ibrahimovic was substituted at halftime with his team 3-1 down
and Rasmus Elm’s free kick in injury time came too late for the
England grew in belief after goalkeeper Joe Hart saved
Ronaldinho’s penalty in the 19th and Rooney scored seven minutes
later, sweeping in the loose ball after Theo Walcott’s shot was
Fred equalized in the 48th after a defensive mistake but
substitute Lampard clinched victory for England over the 2014 World
Cup hosts by curling in a shot from the edge of the area that went
in off the post.
”We’ve got to get to Brazil, but if we continue with that
attitude and get a bit more flow to our game we should be all
right,” said Lampard, whose Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole also made
his 100th international appearance.
Brazil is down in 18th place in the FIFA rankings, partly
because of a lack of competitive games as it qualifies
automatically for the World Cup, and is looking for Scolari to
restore the team’s fortunes after coming in as a replacement for
Mano Menezes last year.
”We aren’t in the best physical shape yet but we will work on
it,” Scolari said.
The Netherlands looked like condemning Italy to a sixth straight
friendly loss when Jeremain Lens put them in front in the 33rd,
only for Verratti to come off the bench and score a last-gasp
”Everyone lost the plot at the end, we gave it away,”
Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said.