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Argentina beat France, milestone for Beckham

DIEGO Maradona's Argentina were impressive 2-0 winners in France yesterday as two of world football's heavyweights squared up for a friendly in Marseille.

Goals from Jonas Gutierrez and Lionel Messi gave Maradona his second victory in two games since taking charge of the national team in November after French fans had chanted his name before kickoff.

On a hectic day of friendly internationals and a smattering of World Cup qualifiers, David Beckham equalled 1966 World Cup winning captain Bobby Moore's record of 108 caps for an outfield player when he came on for the second half of England's 2-0 friendly defeat in Spain.

"I've always said I would like to be up there with the likes of Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore," Beckham, currently on loan at AC Milan, told ITV. "We lost the game tonight but I'm honoured."

European champions Spain, the world's top-ranked nation, extended their unbeaten run to 29 as goals from David Villa and Fernando Llorente emphasised their superiority.

There was a shock 1-0 defeat for Germany at home to Norway while next year's World Cup hosts South Africa were given another reminder of how much work they need to do in the next 18 months when they lost 2-0 at home to Chile.

After Brazil's 2-0 defeat of Italy in London on Tuesday it was Argentina's turn to put aside their stuttering World Cup qualification progress with a classy display against the World Cup runners-up.

Argentina went ahead in the 41st minute when Gutierrez fired a shot past Steve Mandanda. The South Americans contained France comfortably after the break and Messi sealed the victory late on after good work by substitute Carlos Tevez.

Things get more serious for Maradona next month when he faces his first competitive match in charge with a World Cup qualifier at home to Venezuela but, for now, he is content.

"After 20 minutes, my players had possession of the ball and when they do, it's great because we don't have to defend," he said. "I have a fantastic squad. All the tactics we had discussed, the players applied them."


In one of the few matches with points at stake Ireland boosted their chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup when record scorer Robbie Keane struck twice, including a penalty, as his side came back to beat Georgia 2-1 in Dublin.

Giovanni Trapattoni's side are now level with Italy on 10 points at the top of Group 8.

Albania wasted a great chance to go top of their World Cup qualifying group, drawing 0-0 with Malta.

A second-half Christian Grindheim goal handed Norway victory over a lacklustre Germany in a friendly Dusseldorf. The visitors grabbed a deserved winner in the 63rd minute when Morten Gamst Pedersen crossed for Grindheim to tap in.

In other friendly fixtures, the Netherlands were held to a 1-1 draw by Tunisia while Brazil-born striker Eduardo da Silva made an impressive return to top-level action, setting up the winner as Croatia beat Romania 2-1.

Eduardo has been out for a year since suffering a horrific leg injury playing for Arsenal.


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