World champions draw in Mexico

Friendlies see Silva score late leveller while Argentina get 1-0 win after Maradona exit.

    Hatem Ben Arfa scored France's goal in a 2-1 defeat away to Norway [AFP]

    Spain needed a last-minute equaliser to draw their first match since lifting the World Cup as other sides put their South African hangovers behind them.

    Argentina recovered from a 4-0 humiliation against Germany in the quarter-finals last month with a 1-0 victory away to Ireland on Wednesday in their first match since the exit of coach Diego Maradona.

    England came from behind to beat Hungary, but former world champion Laurent Blanc started his reign as France coach with a 2-1 loss to Norway in Oslo.

    Blanc fielded a young side purged of the rebels who brought disgrace to former coach Raymond Domenech's squad in South Africa.

    World Cup runners-up Holland put out a second-string side in Donetsk and drew 1-1 with Euro 2012 co-hosts Ukraine while Germany, semi-finalists in South Africa, also used a back-up team and drew 2-2 in Denmark.

    Bafana back in action

    World Cup hosts South Africa took to the field again at Soccer City in Johannesburg a month after the final was held there.

    New Bafana Bafana coach Pitso Mosimane began his reign with a 1-0 victory over World Cup quarter-finalists Ghana.

    A first-half goal from Katlego Mphela was enough to secure the win as South Africa prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations 2012 qualifiers starting next month.

    Spain drew 1-1 in front of 100,000 fans at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, Manchester United's Javier Hernandez putting the hosts ahead in the 12th minute until Manchester City signing David Silva delivered the equaliser in injury time.

    The Spanish started only three players who began the July 11 World Cup final victory over the Netherlands – goalkeeper Iker Casillas, defender Carles Puyol and midfielder Sergio Busquets.

    Argentina, with Lionel Messi receiving warm applause, began the post-Maradona era with a hard fought victory over Ireland at Lansdowne Road in Dublin.

    Angel Di Maria's first half strike consigned Giovanni Trapattoni's men to defeat in the first international game in the renamed Aviva Stadium.
    Trapattoni missed the match as he recovered in hospital after minor abdominal surgery while Robbie Keane made his 100th appearance for Ireland.

    'Massive blow'

    "It was good to get the massive blow of World Cup elimination out of our system," said Argentina coach Sergio Batista.

    Blanc insisted that he was pleased with his inexperienced France team, which included eight new caps.

    Hatem Ben Arfa put France ahead shortly after half-time but two goals from Erik Huseklepp took Norway to victory.

    "We always play to win so when we lose we aren't satisfied," said Blanc.

    "But we have to overlook the score this evening as I saw  some interesting things. Some players produced some quality which will help us in the future."

    Danish substitute Mads Junker inspired Denmark to come from 2-0 down to force a 2-2 draw against Germany in Copenhagen.

    Junker created one for Dennis Rommedahl and scored the leveller four minutes from time after Germany had gone 2-0 up through Mario Gomez and Patrick Helmes.

    PSV Eindhoven midfielder Jeremain Lens put the Dutch side in front in the second half against Ukraine, while Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Alexander Aliev pulled the scores level just a minute later.

    On a busy night of friendlies, which were warm-ups for September's Euro 2012 qualifiers, Slovenia beat Australia 2-0, Sweden saw off Scotland 3-0, Russia beat Bulgaria 1-0 while tournament co-hosts Poland lost 3-0 at home to Cameroon.

    Samuel Eto'o was on target twice for the Africans.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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