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Messi helps Argentina to 2-0 win at France

Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 2-0 friendly victory over France on Wednesday and Germany lost to Norway for the first time in 73 years when it was beaten 1-0.

sports Updated: Feb 12, 2009 08:53 IST

Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 2-0 friendly victory over France on Wednesday and Germany lost to Norway for the first time in 73 years when it was beaten 1-0.

Fit-again striker Eduardo da Silva gave Croatia a timely boost by setting up the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Romania, but the Netherlands was held to a 1-1 draw by Tunisia.

Jonas Gutierrez had already put Argentina ahead in Marseille when Messi collected the ball outside the penalty area in the 83rd, got through the home defense and beat goalkeeper Steve Mandanda with a shot inside his right post.

The result gave Diego Maradona his second straight win as Argentina coach, but heaped pressure upon his French counterpart, Raymond Domenech. France fans called for Domenech to resign following a second half in which his team rarely threatened the visitors.

The only previous time Norway had beaten Germany was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, but Christian Grindheim scored in the 63rd minute in Duesseldorf with a close-range shot at the far post. Without a victory in 2008, Norway won its first game under new coach Egil Olsen despite missing some of its biggest stars. Germany, meanwhile, has now lost consecutive games ahead of its March 28 World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein, having previously lost a friendly to England.

"Norway was very well organized, we gave them time to get 10 men behind the ball," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "We did not play at high pace, we were not quick enough after winning the ball. We were uninspired and we did not create many chances. "This was not an undeserved loss. But we will learn our lesson from this, I can promise that."

Croatia's warmup for its next competitive match went much better with Eduardo's return from a year out through injury. Ivan Rakitic equalized midway through the first half and Niko Kranjcar scored from Eduardo's pass with 15 minutes remaining to take Croatia's unbeaten streak to three matches since a humbling 4-1 home loss to England in September.

The victory and Eduardo's return to football, following his recovery from a fractured left leg and dislocated ankle, gave Croatia a big boost ahead of its next qualifier for the 2010 World Cup _ on April 1 at Andorra.

England, which leads its European World Cup qualifying group from Croatia, was also in action Wednesday with a friendly at European champion Spain, while Portugal hosted Finland.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba marked his first international match for more than a year with an injury-time equalizer that earned Ivory Coast a 1-1 draw in Turkey.

Gokhan Unal put Turkey ahead in the 11th minute with a shot into the top right corner of the net and Drogba missed several good chances in front of goal before tapping in a cross from the right in the second minute of added time.

Greece drew 1-1 with visiting Denmark, while Sweden won 2-0 against Austria, Belgium beat Slovenia 2-0 and Israel defeated Hungary 1-0 in other friendly matches.

Australia and South Korea both secured away draws to stay top of their groups in Asian qualifying for the World Cup. While the Aussies drew 0-0 at Japan to stay ahead of its opponent in Group 1, South Korea needed a late goal by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung to draw 1-1 in Iran.

Tottenham striker Robbie Keane scored twice in five second-half minutes to give Ireland a 2-1 win over Georgia that put his team level with World Cup holder Italy at the top of European qualifying Group 8. Albania drew 0-0 at Malta but still moved into third place in its qualifying group, ahead of Portugal.

Northern Ireland won 3-0 at San Marino in the other European qualifier.

World Cup host South Africa's five-match winning streak ended with a 2-0 home loss to Chile in a friendly. African champion Egypt drew 2-2 with Ghana, Morocco held the Czech Republic 0-0, Cameroon beat Guinea 3-1 and Jamel Saihi scored a second-half equalizer to give Tunisia its draw against the Netherlands.

Nigeria drew 0-0 with Jamaica in a friendly in London.

First Published: Feb 12, 2009 08:49 IST