Lionel Messi's late penalty tops Portugal
Lionel Messi converted a 90th-minute penalty kick to give Argentina a dramatic 2-1 exhibition victory over Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, while France maintained its revival under coach Laurent Blanc with a 1-0 win over five-time world champion Brazil on Wednesday night.
Ronaldo scored a tying goal in the 21st minute equalizer in Geneva, but the Real Madrid forward was upstaged by his Barcelona rival, who set up Angel Di Maria for a 14th-minute goal and then converted the penalty kick following a foul by Fabio Coentrao on Javier Pastore.
"We always enjoy seeing two great players on the same field," Argentina coach Sergio Batista said. "I liked both of them tonight. Lionel was at a higher level."
Messi was positioned as a central striker and didn't have to retreat into the midfield, the tactic employed by then-coach Diego Maradona at the World Cup last year. Messi failed to score a goal in South Africa, and the Albiceleste lost 4-0 to Germany in the quarterfinals.
"I've played in the same position for Barcelona, and I've been very comfortable because I get more of the ball," Messi said, who has 40 goals in 33 games for the Blaugrana this season.
Karim Benzema scored for France in the 54th minute at Saint-Denis, the stadium where France beat Brazil 3-0 in the 1998 World Cup final. Brazil played a man short after Hernanes was ejected in the 40th minute for a challenge in which he kicked Benzema in the upper body.
The United States' game at Egypt was canceled following political protests there.
Also on Wednesday, Javier Hernandez and Edgar Pacheco scored second-half goals to give Mexico a 2-0 exhibition win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in a successful debut for El Tri coach Jose Manuel de la Torre.
De la Torre was selected to replace Javier Aguirre after Mexico was eliminated from last year's World Cup by Argentina in the second round. De la Torre had coached Toluca, one of Mexico's most successful clubs in recent years.
France won its fifth straight game and built on the 2-1 victory at England in November. Benzema's goal was his 12th goal in 33 international appearances.
"The wins against England and Brazil should give us a lot more confidence individually and collectively," Blanc said. "I hope we can use it in the future for the important (2012 European Championship) qualifiers coming up."
Wesley Sneijder, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Dirk Kuyt scored for the Netherlands in a 3-1 victory over Austria. The night's most surprising result saw 131st-ranked Luxembourg upset 20th-ranked Slovakia 2-1.
At Geneva, the spotlight at the first game between Argentina and Portugal since 1972 was on Messi, the 2009 and 2010 FIFA player of the year, and Ronaldo, the 2008 player of the year.
Messi's goal was his 16th goal in 54 international appearances.
Ronaldo's equalizer in the 21st minute was his 26th goal in 80 international appearances and first in seven head-to-head matches against Messi for club and country. Ronaldo is tied with Messi for the Spanish league with 24 goals and has 34 goals in 35 games for Real Madrid.
Argentina substitute Pastore struck the crossbar with an 86th-minute header off a cross from Messi.
Messi's penalty kick came after referee Massimo Busacca called Fabio Coentrao for a foul on Pastore and was his 16th goal in 54 international appearances, his third in seven games against Ronaldo.
"The draw would have been fair. We played well. In the first half we dominated after Argentina had also dominated," said Ronaldo, Portugal's captain. "We're keeping our heads high."
It was the second straight time Argentina won on a late goal by Messi, who scored in injury time for a 1-0 victory over Brazil in November.
"We knew it was going to be a tough game because Portugal have very quick players," Messi said.
Messi's Barcelona and Ronaldo's Manchester United and Real Madrid have often been opponents at club level in the Champions League and now Spain, but their two countries had not played each other since 1972.
The neutral Stade de Geneve felt like a home game for Portugal thanks to its large expatriate community in the French-speaking part of Switzerland.
Messi was subjected to whistles and jeers when he shimmied past a Ronaldo challenge in the second minute.
Both teams showed positive signs in their rebuilding process -- under Batista and Portugal coach Paulo Bento -- after underachieving at the World Cup. Argentina's next game is against the United States at East Rutherford, N.J., on March 26.
"We're faithful to our way of playing but we know we have a still a lot of improving to do," Messi said.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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