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."
FT scores around the globe: Germany 1-1 Spain Netherlands 0-1 England Portugal 2-1 Egypt Argentina 2-0 Italy pic.twitter.com/dNfQJl00HU— Goal (@goal) March 23, 2018
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.
Argentina beats Italy thanks to second-half goals from Banega and Lanzini. pic.twitter.com/G314zuEMJy— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) March 23, 2018
"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.
Isco vs. GermanyMarch 23, 2018
The midfielder showed us once again why he's so important to Spain for the World Cup. pic.twitter.com/FnslkxWTf0
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.
Andres Iniesta sees things no one else sees ???— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) March 23, 2018
Gorgeous assist for Rodrigo and Spain lead Germany inside six minutes... pic.twitter.com/ge9oP6mZ3x
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.
93' SALAH 1-0 RONALDO— GeniusFootball (@GeniusFootball) March 23, 2018
96' SALAH 1-2 RONALDO
Ronaldo shows why he's the best in the world. pic.twitter.com/qWUMtlELVt
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.
Mohamed Salah goals: 1— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) March 23, 2018
Cristiano Ronaldo goals: 0
The Liverpool has the advantage tonight, but which player do you prefer? pic.twitter.com/PR5DfFA3ds
?FT across multiple #WorldCup-bound teams' friendlies!— FIFA World Cup ? (@FIFAWorldCup) March 23, 2018
??Serbia 1-2 Morocco??
??Germany 1-1 Spain??
??Netherlands 0-1 England???????
??Poland 0-1 Nigeria??
??Portugal 2-1 Egypt??
???????Scotland 0-1 Costa Rica??
??Argentina 2-0 Italy?? pic.twitter.com/SOnJQUCsr4