Lionel Messi struck on his return to international duty Friday following a three-month ban as Argentina defeated fierce rivals Brazil 1-0 in a friendly in Riyadh.
The Barcelona forward was suspended by CONMEBOL for accusing South American football’s ruling body of “corruption” after he was sent off in July’s third-place play-off with Chile at the Copa America.
Messi netted the only goal of the game at the King Saud University Stadium on 13 minutes, tapping home the rebound after his penalty was saved by Brazil goalkeeper Alisson.
His effort came shortly after Manchester City striker Gabriel Jesus rolled a spot-kick wide for Brazil, who were playing without the injured Neymar.
Messi, who scored with a pair of free-kicks in his last game with Barcelona, twice threatened from set pieces in the second half before Liverpool ‘keeper Alisson beat away a powerful drive from Paredes.
Rodrygo, the 18-year-old who scored a sensational Champions League hattrick with Real Madrid this month, made his Brazil debut as he replaced Willian for the final 20 minutes.
However, Brazil were unable to find an equaliser as their winless run since capturing the Copa America title extended to five matches.
The last coach under whom Brazil went at least five games without winning was Paulo Roberto Falcao 28 years ago between 1990 and 1991. At that time, the winless streak extended to seven games.
The meeting between the two South American giants was the second in Saudi Arabia in little over a year. Brazil beat Argentina 1-0 in Jeddah in October 2018.
Brazil also defeated Argentina 2-0 at home in the semi-finals of this year’s Copa America, a controversial match that left Messi complaining the hosts had benefited from favouritism.
Brazil forward Willian admitted that their winless run was stressful.
“It’s hard, really. The results are not coming, but it is certainly not due to a lack of commitment or work. We had a good start but we couldn’t score the goal.”
Galvao Bueno, a famous on-air personality who attended the funeral of Garrincha, was scathing in his assessment, saying: “The national team is very predictable, very obvious football is repeated all the time. I’m not satisfied. Do you know what I think? I didn’t want to say it but either Tite changes or they have to change Tite. I think he’s a great coach.”
“I have been in this life for 45 years. I have been broadcasting the Brazilian team for 40. I think I have never seen Argentina choke Brazil like this,” he added.