South America Friendly Wrap: Argentina and Ecuador Impress

Christopher AtkinsContributor IFebruary 8, 2013

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - FEBRUARY 06:  Lionel Messi of Argentina in action during the International Friendly match between Sweden and Argentina at the Friends Arena on February 6, 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty Images)
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Messi steals the limelight in Argentina win

Argentina would appear to very much be a team on the rise. A 3-2 away win in Sweden was the least they deserved for a performance that exuded confidence and energy, with a last minute Rasmus Elm goal offering Sweden a particularly kind gloss to the scoreline.

Once more, it was Messi that grabbed the headlines. The Barcelona man may have remained goalless, despite a lobbed shot that did appear to cross the line. However, he was still centre stage throughout.

His performance was a little too much for some people, as one fan decided to enter the pitch and take the opportunity to give his idol a kiss. It was an unusual aside and one, as ever, that Messi handled with incredible calmness.


Ecuador shock Portugal to answer doubters

The biggest story of the night would come in Guimarães, where a powerful Ecuador side would overcome their Portuguese hosts 3-2.

Ecuador have been impressing in World Cup qualification, lying second only to Argentina at present and look in good shape to qualify for the finals.

Doubts have been cast over their ability to capitalise on the opportunity, with some tough fixtures remaining. However, as always, points on the board are the most valuable commodity.

In beating Portugal in Europe, though, Ecuador may have just quietened some of their doubters for the time being.

A potent attacking lineup of Jefferson Montero, Cristian Benitez and Felipe Caicedo mean they will always be a threat in the final third. The defensive unit might be less well known, but they are shielded by a powerful midfield trio of Christian Noboa, Segundo Castillo and Antonio Valencia, who are the heart of the team.

They are a well balanced and physical side, without the star power of others. However, it appears that Ecuador might just have struck the right combination as they hunt for World Cup 2014 qualification.


Chile win in Spain, Uruguay lose to Spain

Strangely, while Spain played Uruguay in Doha, Chile were taking on Egypt in Madrid. In La Roja's first game under new manager Jorge Sampaoli, of Universidad de Chile fame, they made little fuss in beating their North African opponents 2-1.

The Chileans, who included 18-year-old midfielder Bryan Rabello in their ranks, scored twice in quick succession on the hour mark and, despite a late Mohamed Salah goal, never looked in danger of conceding their advantage.

Sampaoli's reign has got off to a victorious start and now, with time to work with the team ahead of their next fixture, it will be interesting to see if he can rescue their ailing qualification campaign.

Uruguay, meanwhile, were able to give a strong account of themselves in Qatar and were level with World Champions Spain at half time. Ultimately, though, the Spaniards' quality shone through and Oscar Tabarez's side were comfortably dispatched to continue a poor run of recent results.


Falcao-less Colombia head field in Central America

They may have been without star striker Falcao, but Colombia continued their impressive recent form in a 4-1 victory over Guatemala. Their opposition may not have been the best, but the South Americans were rampant once more.

They may not have had their star forward, but 18-goal Porto striker Jackson Martinez is a more-than-able replacement and he, predictably, chipped in with two goals on the night.

Another of those who are flying in World Cup qualification, the Colombians will certainly be a side to watch at the main event next year, and they have some exceptional young talents coming through in Juan Fernando Quintero, Luis Muriel and James Rodriguez.

Elsewhere, Bolivia extended their unbeaten run to four games with a 2-1 victory over Haiti, while Paraguay also overcame CONCACAF opposition in beating El Salvador 3-0. In the Caribbean, Peru beat Trinidad and Tobago 2-0.