Brazil, Argentina enjoy big friendly wins
LONDON (AP) -Lionel Messi maintained his scoring form for Argentina and Brazil recovered in style from its loss in the Olympic final as the South American powers enjoyed impressive victories in international friendlies in Europe on Wednesday.
Once criticized for not reproducing his Barcelona form on the international stage, Messi took his tally for Argentina to nine goals in the last five matches by netting the team's second in a 3-1 win over 10-man Germany.
Brazil won 3-0 in Sweden, with Alexandre Pato grabbing two late goals in front of national-team great Pele, who was in the crowd in Rasunda stadium where he scored twice in the 1958 World Cup final.
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. World champion Spain plays away against Puerto Rico later Wednesday, six weeks after retaining its continental title at the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine.
Messi seems to be revelling in his role as Argentina captain since being given the armband by Alejandro Sabella following the coach's appointment last year.
The diminutive forward, who has scored hat tricks against Switzerland and Brazil this year, had a penalty saved in the 32nd minute by Marc-Andre ter Stegen, who came on as a substitute moments earlier after fellow goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler was given a straight red card for a professional foul.
Messi made up for it by scoring in the 52nd, adding to an own goal scored by Sami Khedira on the stroke of halftime, and Angel di Maria sealed the win with a long-range strike in the 73rd.
Benedikt Hoewedes scored a late consolation for Germany, which lost to Italy in the semifinals of Euro 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 in a three-minute span late on, with his second coming from the penalty spot.
While Brazil and Argentina selected largely full-strength teams, the top European nations used the friendlies to assess their squad options ahead of the World Cup qualification campaign that starts next month.
While Germany's strength in depth was lacking against Argentina, England's reserves shone in the neutral territory of Bern, Switzerland, where Roy Hodgson's team took revenge on Italy following the loss in a penalty shootout to the Italians in the Euro quarterfinals.
Daniele De Rossi headed Italy into the lead from a corner in the 15th but Phil Jagielka equalized from the same route 12 minutes later and Defoe crowned an encouraging second-half display with a stunning diagonal finish into the top corner in the 79th.
France and the Netherlands were playing their first games under new coaches and neither Didier Deschamps nor Louis van Gaal started their tenures with victories.
The French lacked a cutting edge at home to Uruguay after dominating the match in Le Havre, while the Dutch were beaten for the fourth straight game, having lost every group match at Euro 2012.
Their defensive problems were there for all to see as they conceded three avoidable goals between the 75th and the 80th.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar had put the Dutch 2-1 ahead in the 55th but Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku and Jan Vertonghen gave Belgium victory over its neighbor.
Other notable wins came from Slovakia, which beat Denmark 3-1, Switzerland, which defeated Croatia 4-2, and Estonia, which beat Euro 2012 co-host Poland 1-0 at home.