England edged out old enemies Scotland in a five-goal thriller at Wembley in London on Wednesday in what proved to be the pick of a busy night of international action.
The midweek friendly date sanctioned by FIFA is not the most popular among clubs, falling as it does just as Europe’s leading domestic leagues are getting underway, but there was plenty of drama with England beating Scotland 3-2, while Germany shared six goals with Paraguay, Italy lost to Argentina in Rome, FIFA Confederations Cup winners Brazil went down to defeat in Switzerland and reigning world and European champions Spain triumphed in Ecuador.
In a revival of the oldest international fixture in world soccer, Scotland were in front twice at Wembley, goals from James Morrison and Kenny Miller sending 20,000 visiting fans wild with delight, but England hit back each time, first through Theo Walcott and then Danny Welbeck, before 31-year-old Southampton striker Rickie Lambert headed in what proved to be the winner 20 minutes from time on his debut.
“Rickie Lambert has been so enthusiastic — he’s been like a young boy with a new toy,” England manager Roy Hodgson said. “He almost got three and I’m delighted with him.”
While England emerged victorious, Germany displayed defensive weaknesses again in an admittedly entertaining 3-3 draw with Paraguay in Kaiserslautern.
The hosts were 2-0 and 3-2 down in the first half against the 2010 World Cup quarter-finalists — who nevertheless sit bottom of South American qualifying for next year’s finals — before coming back to draw as Ilkay Gundogan, Thomas Mueller and Lars Bender netted for the hosts.
“We only trained twice before this match,” Bayern Munich defender and Germany captain Philipp Lahm said.
Elsewhere, Spain’s latest transatlantic trip to play in a money-spinning friendly saw them beat Ecuador 2-0 in Guayaquil, Manchester City’s Alvaro Negredo and Arsenal’s Santi Cazorla scoring the goals for the visitors.
By contrast, Brazil went down to a 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in Basel, with a farcical Dani Alves own-goal early in the second half separating the sides.
The Barcelona fullback inexplicably headed the ball past his own goalkeeper Jefferson at the back post to give Switzerland — top of European World Cup qualifying Group E — a surprise win.
Brazil’s old rivals Argentina won 2-1 against Italy in Rome, despite being deprived of the presence of World Player of the Year Lionel Messi.
Gonzalo Higuain, who recently moved to Serie A side SSC Napoli, and Ever Banega netted for the visitors, before Lorenzo Insigne got one back for the Azzurri, who were themselves missing star striker Mario Balotelli.
“When a team is used to playing with Messi, you can see the difference when he is not there,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella said. “Messi is irreplaceable, [but] the character and desire we showed really pleased me.”
In other games, Portugal and the Netherlands drew 1-1 on the Algarve, with a late Cristiano Ronaldo goal earning the home side a draw after Kevin Strootman had put the Netherlands in front.
Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic netted a hat-trick as Sweden beat neighbors Norway 4-2 in Solna, but France saw their woes in front of goal continue as they drew 0-0 in Belgium.
Les Bleus have now gone more than six hours without putting the ball in the net, with supposed star striker Karim Benzema seeing his international goal drought stretch to more than 19 hours.