Messi runs riot to frustrate Brazil
EAST RUTHERFORD - Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick as Argentina beat arch-rivals Brazil 4-3 in an end-to-end friendly on Saturday, dealing a blow to the Brazilians as they wrapped up their preparations for the London Olympics.
A young Brazil side facing a more experienced Argentina took the lead in the 23rd minute when a quickly taken free-kick found Romulo, who banged in the goal as Argentina's defenders appealed in vain for offside.
Argentina equalised in the 31st minute after Gonzalo Higuain robbed Brazilian captain Sandro and fed a defence-splitting pass to Messi, who shot low into the corner of the goal. Within three minutes, the diminutive striker ran clear again to put Argentina 2-1 up, collecting a pass from Angel di Maria and rounding Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Cabral.
Brazil got back in the game in the second half when Oscar scored from close range on 56 minutes and then reclaimed the lead when Hulk took advantage of a fumble by Argentina keeper Sergio Romero to score.
But Argentina stormed back quickly as Federico Fernandez headed in from a corner in the 75th minute before Messi scored the best goal of the game with a trademark run and unstoppable shot from outside the penalty area in the 84th minute. Argentina's coach paid tribute to Messi, who in the past has been criticised for not repeating for the national side his brilliant form with Barcelona.
"Thankfully for us, he's Argentine and we can enjoy having him in our team," Alejandro Sabella said. "He's an exceptional player going through an exceptional phase."
Brazil coach Mano Menezes was left scratching his head about Messi, who made the difference in a game in which Brazil created a string of scoring opportunities.
"No one in the world has found a solution (to playing against him)," Menezes said.