Messi scored the second of Argentina’s goals / PHOTO: FCB ARCHIVE
There was a win for Argentina featuring Messi and Mascherano against ten-men Germany, and also for Brazil and Dani Alves against Sweden. But there was disappointment for Afellay as Holland were beaten by neighbours Belgium in Brussels.
Germany v Argentina (1-3)
Both Leo Messi and Javier Mascherano were in the Argentina starting eleven that faced Germany in Frankfurt. After early chances for Özil and Higuaín, the match-changing incident came in the 29th minute, when the referee awarded the South Americans a penalty and sent Zieler off for his foul on Sosa. Messi took the kick, but saw his effort denied by German stopper Ter Stegen. Despite that setback, however, the Barça star didn’t disappoint in a terrific all-round display. Shortly before the break there was further misfortune for the home side when a Khedira own goal put Argentina ahead.
Six minutes after the restart, Messi grabbed Argentina’s second after a well-worked team move culminated by an assist from Higuaín. Argentina were in total command, and in the 64th minute, Messi almost made it three. The third goal finally materialised in the 72nd minute, converted by Di María. The man of the match performance by Messi wasn’t over, and in the 75th minute he hit the post following a trademark solo run. Mascherano was replaced by Braña in the 79th minute, two minutes before Höwedes scored a consolation header for Germany.
Sweden v Brazil (0-3)
Dani Alves played all 90 minutes of Brazil’s first game since winning silver at London 2012. It doubled as the last ever match at the legendary Rasunda Stadium before it is demolished. The Barça wing back was given plenty of chances to score from free kicks, but none of them went in, and it took 32 minutes for the deadlock to be broken by Leandro Damiao, heading home a cross from Neymar.
That obliged a highly defensive Sweden to push their lines forward, which only served to generate more space for the ‘canarinha’, although it was not until the final quarter of an hour that their lead was extended thanks to a brace from Pato, the first in the 84th minute following an excellent one-two with Dani Alves, and the second from the penalty spot in the 86th minute.
Belgium v Holland (4-2)
Holland went down to an early goal from Belgium’s Benkete. But just after the break, they turned things around with goals from Narsingh and Huntelaar. However, there were to be no victory celebrations for Louis van Gaal in his first game since returning to the Dutch bench. Goals from Martens, Lukaku and Vertonghen eventually made it 4-2 to Belgium, leaving many of the questions raised by Holland’s miserable participation at Euro 2012 unanswered.