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Messi gives Argentina win over Brazil; Spain loses
LONDON (AP) - Lionel Messi secured a 1-0 friendly win for Argentina over traditional rival Brazil on Wednesday, while World Cup champ Spain slumped to a 4-0 defeat at Portugal.
While Messi justified his status as the best player in the world with an injury-time solo goal that clinched Argentina's first win over its neighbor in six meetings, Spain allowed four goals for the second time since winning the World Cup.
Carlos Martins, an own-goal by Sergio Ramos, Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida gave the home side the victory in Lisbon.
Klaas-Jan Huntelaar gave World Cup runner-up the Netherlands a 1-0 win over Turkey, and France topped England 2-1 with a goal in each half at Wembley.
Italy's experimental lineup needed an 82nd-minute own-goal by Ciprian Marica to salvage a 1-1 draw against Romania in a match marred by racist taunts directed at Azzurri forward Mario Balotelli.
A youthful Germany team failed to unlock host Sweden as defenses dominated in a 0-0 draw, while the United States beat South Africa 1-0.
Argentina and Brazil looked to be heading for a scoreless draw in Doha, Qatar, after 90 minutes.
But Messi collected possession midway inside Brazil's half, beat four opponents and scored with a low shot into the right corner.
"Messi means everything to us," Argentina coach Sergio Batista. "He showed why he's the best player in the world."
Spain eliminated Portugal in the second round of the World Cup in South Africa, but was comprehensively beaten in Lisbon.
Martins opened the scoring in the 45th minute from a rebound after goalkeeper Iker Casillas had saved Cristiano Ronaldo's shot and Ramos poked Postiga's goal-bound shot into his own net three minutes after the break.
Spain's only wins in six matches since hoisting the World Cup have been in European Championship qualifying, against the weak trio of Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Scotland.
It has allowed 12 goals in its past four games.
Huntelaar scored in the 52nd for the Netherlands, but it was Hedwiges Maduro who set up the goal. The Valencia midfielder took the ball from Turkey left back Ismail Koybasi and crossed to Huntelaar, who knocked it in from close range.
The goal silenced a sizable Turkish crowd, which had been throwing flares onto the pitch throughout the game.
France put its humiliation at this year's World Cup further behind it with a fourth straight win and a fluent display, easing into a 2-0 lead at Wembley before injury-hit England got a late goal back.
Karim Benzema beat goalkeeper Ben Foster at the near post in the 16th and Mathieu Valbuena volleyed in from a cross by Bacary Sagna 10 minutes after halftime.
Peter Crouch came on as a substitute for the injured Steven Gerrard and volleyed in with his first touch direct from an 86th-minute corner.
"We didn't really pass the ball and we didn't really get going until the last 15 minutes," England captain Rio Ferdinand said. "We didn't play to our strengths today. We didn't control the ball and we didn't retain possession."
Italy striker Balotelli, who was born in Italy but is of Ghanian descent, was jeered every time he touched the ball in neutral Austria _ with the taunts coming from a group of about 100 extreme right-wing Italian fans at the match.
Stuttgart striker Marica put Romania ahead in the 34th with a shot from the edge of the area. He then scored at the other end following a corner from Andrea Pirlo.
Romelu Lukaku scored a goal in each half to give Belgium a 2-0 win over Russia, Egypt beat Australia 3-0 to hand Socceroos coach Holger Osieck his first loss since taking over in August, and Ghana dominated possession but was held 0-0 by Saudi Arabia.
In qualifying for the 2012 European Championship, Niko Kranjcar scored twice to lead Croatia to a 3-0 win over Malta that completed an unbeaten calendar year for the team for the first time since it started playing international soccer in 1991.
In the other qualifier, striker Mikael Forssell scored a second-half hat trick to help Finland to an 8-0 Group E win over tiny San Marino 8-0. Winless San Marino has allowed 29 goals in five qualifiers.
Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine drew 2-2 against Switzerland. Poland, the other co-host, ended an eight-game winless streak as Robert Lewandowski scored twice in a 3-1 win over Ivory Coast.
Roque Santa Cruz, who has made only two appearances for his club Manchester City this season, took advantage of some rare playing time to score two goals and set up two more in Paraguay's 7-0 thrashing of Hong Kong.
Serbia beat Bulgaria 1-0, Norway won 2-1 at Ireland and Israel beat Iceland 3-2 in other matches.
By John R. Bolton
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