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.
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.