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Brazil brush WC hosts Russia aside, Ronaldo steals Salah limelight

  • Published at 04:41 am March 24th, 2018
  • Last updated at 12:16 pm March 24th, 2018
Brazil brush WC hosts Russia aside, Ronaldo steals Salah limelight
Five-time world champions Brazil showed no signs of missing Neymar as they fine-tuned preparations for this year's World Cup with a confident 3-0 victory over tournament hosts Russia on Friday. Inter Milan full-back Miranda scored the opener while Barcelona midfield pair Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho scored one apiece at Moscow's renovated Luzhniki stadium where the World Cup final will be played. "I'm very happy with my team's performance," Brazilian manager Tite said. "My players put into practice everything that we planned for this match. "They've learned well all the lessons that we've been working on in training and they converted the chances that they created into goals. "In the first half we studied Russia's play and tactics and made certain changes at the break to show our best in the second half. I believe my team is almost ready for the World Cup. Tite's next job is to psychologically prepare Brazil for a match with their 2014 semi-final nemesis Germany. "Now we need to forget the 7-1 defeat at the previous World Cup and to perform with dignity in Berlin. We must be mentally strong and we have no other choice but to play our best football on Tuesday." In their friendly, Ever Banega ensured Argentina weren't derailed by Lionel Messi's absence as the World Cup contenders clinched a 2-0 win over Italy in Friday's friendly at the Etihad Stadium. Messi reportedly suffered an groin strain in training on Thursday, so the Barcelona forward was an unused substitute as Argentina kicked off their preparations for the World Cup in June. Ahead of a busy end to the domestic season and then the World Cup, five-time Ballon d'Or winner Messi wasn't going to risk aggravating his injury. Without their talismanic star, Jorge Sampaoli's side showed they have strength in depth with a solid display capped by late goals from Banega and Manuel Lanzini. Having edged through to the World Cup thanks to Messi's treble in a 3-1 win over Ecuador in October, Argentina are focused on peaking in Russia, where they will play Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria in the group stage. Clearly they need Messi to have any chance of lifting the trophy, but, with Sergio Aguero also sidelined by injury, Sampaoli will be encouraged by the performance of his understudies. "We played this game as a final," said Sampaoli, who is set to be without Angel Di Maria for next week's friendly against Spain after he suffered a thigh injury. "The team had a lot of stability and the collective level was very good." Meanwhile, A superb Thomas Mueller equaliser saw world champions Germany fight back against Spain as the European powerhouses drew 1-1 in Friday's high-profile friendly. After Rodrigo Moreno put Spain ahead after just six minutes, Germany went into the break level as Mueller hit his 38th goal for the national team on his 90th international appearance. "I had tried it two or three times in the warm-up and it's nice when you can pull it off in the game," Mueller told broadcaster ARD. "Both teams had their chances and it could have just as easily finished 2-2 or 3-3 -- it was a good test for both of us." The draw in front of a sold-out 50,653 crowd preserves both sides' respective unbeaten runs dating back to Euro 2016. Germany boss Joachim Loew started with six World Cup winners from 2014 in Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Mueller and Mesut Ozil. Germany were punished for living dangerously as Spain dominated the early exchanges. Hummels was at fault for the opening goal, leaving too much space for Iniesta to tuck the ball behind the German defence. In another match, Cristiano Ronaldo hit two goals in stoppage time as European champions Portugal defeated Egypt 2-1 in a friendly international on Friday, winning his personal duel with Mohamed Salah who had put the seven-time African champions ahead. Ronaldo, appearing in his 900th career match, made his mark to devastating effect as time ran out. First, he pulled his team level with a header from a Ricardo Quaresma cross, before adding the winner in almost identical circumstances in the fourth minute of injury time. However, the 33-year-old Real Madrid star had to wait for the VAR system to validate his goal after a suspicion of offside. His two-goal salvo took his Portugal tally to 81. Earlier, Salah, who has shone at Liverpool this season with 28 Premier League goals, broke the deadlock in Zurich after 56 minutes. After a quickfire exchange of passes, Abdallah El Said found Salah in space for his teammate to beat Beto in the Portuguese goal with a sweetly-timed left-foot strike from the edge of the area. Jesse Lingard scored his first England goal as a reshaped side beat the Netherlands 1-0 in an Amsterdam friendly on Friday. This was England's last away match before they travel to Russia for this year's World Cup finals and they were rewarded with a well-deserved win against a Dutch side who will be one of the major absentees from the showpiece tournament.
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