ENGLAND PULLED OFF their first victory over Italy in 15 years in a friendly on Wednesday, while visiting South American giants Argentina and Brazil notched up comfortable victories over Germany and Sweden.
A stunning Jermaine Defoe strike 10 minutes from time handed Roy Hodgson’s England a 2-1 win, their first over the Italians since a 2-0 friendly victory in 1997 although it may not make up for the pain of June’s Euro 2012 quarter-final defeat on penalties to the same opponents.
England had to come from behind, with Daniele De Rossi heading in to give the Euro 2012 runners-up a 15th-minute lead before Phil Jagielka equalised 12 minutes later with another header.
But just when it appeared as if the match was petering out to a draw, Defoe finished off a counter-attack led by fellow substitute James Milner before sending a 20-yard shot arrowing into Salvatore Sirigu’s top-left corner.
“It was a spectacular goal, and a great way to win the game,” said Hodgson. “It’s something none of us who have watched him play for Tottenham over the years, and have seen the quality he has, are surprised about.”
In Frankfurt, Argentina, whose World Cup ambitions died in a four-goal thumping at German hands two years ago in South Africa, turned the tables with a 3-1 win, despite Lionel Messi mising a penalty.
The hosts ended up with 10 men and were struggling once they lost inexperienced goalkeeper Ron-Robert Zieler after he upended the onrushing Jose Sosa.
Germany’s 20-year-old rookie Marc-Andre ter Stegen of Borussia Moenchengladbach took his place between the sticks – then promptly saved a poor Messi penalty.
Messi – who shattered Europe’s goalscoring records last season with 73 goals in total for Barcelona in 60 games to beat German Gerd Mueller’s mark of 67 set 1972-73 – would not be denied, however, and was at the heart of a fine win with the second goal in 52 minutes.
Messi’s effort all but wrapped things up after a curious opening goal saw Sami Khedira knock the ball over his own line for the opener in first half injury time following Real Madrid teammate Angel Di Maria’s corner.
Di Maria set the seal on the victory when he rifled home a left-footer from 30 yards with 11 minutes remaining.
Argentina’s continental neighbours Brazil secured a comfortable 3-0 win over Sweden at the soon-to-be demolished Rasunda Stadium, centrepiece of the 1958 World Cup finals which the Brazilians won after beating the Swedish hosts 5-2.
With Pele and other members of that team looking on, second-half replacement Alexandre Pato scored a quick-fire brace in the 84th and 87th minutes, the latter a penalty, to secure victory.
Leandro Damiao, golden boot at the Olympics, had duly opened the scoring in the 32nd minute with a powerful header to ensure Brazil’s dominance over a Swedish side missing injured captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
In the northern port city of Le Havre, Didier Deschamps’ first game at the French helm ended in a 0-0 stalemate with Uruguay.
It was the fourth consecutive match between the countries to finish goalless, although France twice struck the frame of the goal in their first match since Laurent Blanc left his post after their quarter-final exit at Euro 2012.
“The most difficult thing in football is to score a goal,” said Deschamps.
“We did some good things. We created quite a few opportunities against a team who know each other well. Their starting XI has lots of players with more than 50 caps. We had seven players with less than 10 caps.”
Elsewhere, Belgium notched up a 4-2 victory over the Netherlands, Bosnia-Herzegovina won 2-0 in Wales, Switzerland scored a convincing 4-2 win over Croatia, Scotland saw off Australia 3-1 and Northern Ireland drew 3-3 with Finland.