LONDON - The Associated Press
Brazil’s Dani Alves (L) battles for the ball with Sweden’s Alexander Kacaniklic. REUTERS photo
It wasn’t long ago that Lionel Messi was being criticized for failing to translate his Barcelona form on the international stage. Not any more.
The reigning three-time world player of the year took his tally for Argentina to nine goals in his last five matches by scoring the team’s second in a 3-1 win over 10-man Germany on a busy round of international friendlies on Aug. 15.
It was a successful night for another South American
power, too, with Brazil
recovering in style from its loss to Mexico in the Olympic final by beating Sweden 3-0 away.
Brazil great Pele was in the crowd at the Rasunda Stadium, where as a 17-year-old prodigy he scored twice in the 1958 World Cup final between the two sides.
World champion Spain beat Puerto Rico 2-1 away in its first match since retaining its continental title at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine, and Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo was on target for Portugal in its 2-0 win over Panama in Faro.
England beat Italy 2-1 thanks to Jermain Defoe’s late goal, France drew 0-0 with Uruguay and Belgium beat the Netherlands 4-2 in other high-profile friendlies as European teams used the matches to assess their squad options ahead of the World Cup qualification that starts next month.
Messi, the scorer of 73 goals for Barcelona last season, seems to be revelling in his role as Argentina captain since being given the armband by coach Alejandro Sabella, scoring hat tricks against Switzerland and Brazil
already in 2012.
Brazil was playing its first match since losing the Olympic final 2-1 to Mexico, and coach Mano Menezes kept faith with the majority of the team that played at Wembley Stadium.
One of the retained players, Leandro Damiao, gave Brazil
the lead in the 32nd with a header from Neymar’s cross before Pato scored twice.
“We wanted to leave a strong impression and I think the national team played a good game where we created many chances and we scored three goals,” Menezes said.