International Friendlies: France, Agentina, Cameroon win as Brazil, Portugal, Macedonia sunk

Karim Benzema shrugged off his club troubles and a violent challenge to give France a 1-0 win over 10-man Brazil in Wednesday’s prestige friendly in Paris.

The Real Madrid striker netted the only goal from close range nine minutes into the second half of the rematch of the 1998 World Cup final at the same venue — which France won 3-0.

He was lucky to escape serious injury five minutes before the break when Brazil midfielder Hernanes was sent off for kicking him in the chest.

Benzema has struggled to show his true form in Spain since his $48 million move in 2009, but was a constant threat after the red card and should have added more to his new tally of 12 international goals.

However, his 54th-minute strike proved enough, set up by winger Jeremy Menez’s burst down the right and subsequent teasing low cross.

Menez was lucky to stay on the pitch after a bad tackle from behind on Brazil defender David Luiz, whose new English club Chelsea will be relieved he escaped injury.

It was France’s fifth consecutive win under coach Laurent Blanc, who has revived the team’s fortunes after last year’s first-round exit at the World Cup in South Africa.

Brazil coach Mano Menezes suffered a second successive defeat following November’s loss to Argentina.

Also on Wednesday, two of the world’s best footballers went head-to-head in neutral Switzerland, and once again Lionel Messi came out on top as Argentina snatched a last-gasp 2-1 friendly win over Portugal.

His Real Madrid arch-rival Cristiano Ronaldo put the European side level in the 21st minute after Angel Di Maria’s opener in Geneva, but Barcelona superstar Messi gave the South Americans the spoils with a 90th-minute penalty.

The duo have matched each other almost goal for goal this season in La Liga, and Messi has the upper hand with Barcelona seven points clear and resounding 5-0 victors in the opening “Clasico” clash between the two clubs.

And the two-time world player of the year was involved in Argentina’s 14th-minute opener as he cut in from the right in trademark fashion to set up Real winger Di Maria.

But Ronaldo, who followed up Messi’s weekend hat-trick with a double of his own to regain top spot in the Spanish scoring charts, pounced from close range soon after from striker Hugo Almeida’s flick-on.

Ronaldo should have made it 2-1 soon after halftime but hit the bar from close range, then saw Almeida waste an even better opportunity before both were substituted along with Nani.

But Messi stayed on the pitch until the end, and got his reward when Fabio Coentrao fouled substitute Pablo Zabaleta.

In another rematch of a past World Cup final, Germany were held 1-1 at home by 1982 champions Italy.

Veteran striker Miroslav Klose opened the scoring in the 16th minute after fine build-up play by Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, beating recalled former captain Gianluigi Buffon in goal.

But Giuseppe Rossi — who shares the surname of 1982 tournament top scorer Paolo — snatched a late equalizer for Cesare Prandelli’s team, beating keeper Manuel Neuer at the second attempt with nine minutes to play.

World champions Spain beat Colombia 1-0 in Madrid thanks to an 86th-minute winner by substitute David Silva.

Striker David Villa, seeking to move past Raul as Spain’s record scorer, was denied his 45th international goal when he hit the post in the first half.

The Netherlands, beaten in the World Cup final in South Africa last year, defeated Austria 3-1 in Eidhoven.

Wesley Sneijder volleyed a 28th-minute opener before second-half goals from striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar — his 10th goal in six matches — and Dirk Kuyt from the penalty spot made Marko Arnautovic’s late strike a mere consolation.

England came from behind to beat Denmark 2-1 in Copenhagen, as Aston Villa forwards Darren Bent and Ashley Young struck in each half after Daniel Agger’s early diving header.

Russia suffered a shock 1-0 defeat by Iran in the United Arab Emirates, as Mohammad Reza Khalatbari netted a last-minute winner and was then sent off after being booked for celebrating.

The match was reportedly watched by former Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, who has been linked with the Iran post.

South Korea, who were also in action at the Asian Cup recently, drew 0-0 with Turkey.

Cameroon warmed up for next month’s Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Senegal with a 1-0 win away to Macedonia, with substitute Matthew Mbuta scoring the only goal in the 75th minute in Skopje.

South Africa beat Kenya 2-0 thanks to first-half goals from Davide Somma and Steven Pienaar, while Morocco defeated Niger 3-0 and Nigeria edged Sierra Leone 2-1.

* Original story from CNN Sports

* Photo from CNN Sports

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