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Star men Messi, Ronaldo in friendly shadows

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo spent a rare Saturday in the shadows as Argentina and Portugal slipped to defeats in friendly internationals staged more than 8,000 km apart.

sports Updated: Oct 13, 2014 01:36 IST

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo spent a rare Saturday in the shadows as Argentina and Portugal slipped to defeats in friendly internationals staged more than 8,000 km apart.

Messi missed a first-half penalty as Brazil beat Argentina 2-0 in a fiercely contested "Superclasico" in front of 50,000 fans in Beijing.

Seven hours later, Ronaldo's Portugal lost 2-1 to France in Paris.

At Beijing's Olympic Stadium, journeyman Diego Tardelli was the unlikely hero with his first two goals for Brazil.

Atletico Mineiro striker Tardelli, 29, put Brazil ahead on 28 minutes, before Messi curled his soft penalty attempt close to goalkeeper Jefferson just before half-time.

Tardelli was on target again in the second half as Brazil restored pride after the World Cup, when the hosts were hammered in the semis while Argentina reached the final.

"Brazil are the best team in the world with a great tradition," beamed coach Dunga, who is rebuilding following the 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany.

"We have no big players, we are now acting as one team. The whole team is evolving, including me."

Barcelona icon Messi has now missed two successive penalties - two weeks after he also miscued one for his club against Levante.

"We always try to win but today we couldn't. It was a match defined by our two mistakes," said Messi.

"The error for the first goal and the penalty were crucial. If I had converted, it could have changed the game."

At the Stade de France in Paris, Karim Benzema scored an early goal and set up Paul Pogba's winner as France beat Portugal.

Real Madrid striker Benzema outshone clubmate Ronaldo as France ripped into Portugal from the off, taking the lead after three minutes.

Portugal goalkeeper Rui Patricio could only parry Bacary Sagna's shot, leaving Benzema to twist and convert unmarked on the six yard line.

Benzema then generously set up Pogba, the swashbuckling Juventus midfielder, to fire home a precise side-footed effort from just inside the box on 69 minutes.

"We won with style and were really strong from the start. It was a great team performance," Benzema said.

It took Ronaldo until late in the first half to flicker into life. He looked to have the France back line beaten in the 51st minute but Steve Mandanda's outstretched fingers stopped a deft header from finding the bottom corner of the net.

Ronaldo, the 2013 Ballon D'Or winner, was later substituted and had an ice-pack put on his knee.

Seconds later Portugal were back in with a chance at 2-1 when Pogba clipped Joao Mario in the box.

Ricardo Quaresma duly converted from the spot, sending his penalty down the middle as Mandanda dived right.

France coach Didier Deschamps praised Benzema who had been overshadowed by the Ronaldo hype in the build-up to the game.

"We expect a lot from Karim because he has great potential. He can do better but it's unfair to criticise him," said Deschamps.

"I am happy to have him in the team and I'm happy he's French."

Elsewhere, Chile international defender Gary Medel needed surgery after a facial injury picked up in the 3-0 win over Peru in Valparaiso.

The Inter Milan player lost a tooth after being elbowed by Rinaldo Cruzado.

He needed an operation to repair a damaged crown and a cut to his tongue.

First Published: Oct 13, 2014 01:25 IST