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August 14, 2009

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Spain, England survive scare

EUROPEAN champion Spain hit back from two goals down to beat Macedonia 3-2, England rallied from 0-2 behind to draw 2-2 with the Netherlands in Amsterdam, Argentina beat Russia 3-2 in Moscow, Brazil captured a 1-0 victory over Estonia and Australia beat Ireland 3-0 at Limerick in international friendlies across Europe.

Portugal outplayed Liechtenstein 3-0 but World Cup holder Italy was held 0-0 by Switzerland in Basel, its third game in a row without scoring. Fabio Cannavaro made his 127th international appearance to beat Paolo Maldini's record for Italy.

Macedonia threatened a major shock in Skopje when Goran Pandev netted twice against Spain. But three goals in four minutes by Fernando Torres, Gerard Pique and Albert Riera turned the game around.

After defensive blunders had handed first-half goals to Dirk Kuyt and Rafael van der Vaart, Jermaine Defoe came off the bench to score twice for England.

Argentina took some pressure off coach Diego Maradona by beating Russia 3-2, despite the absence of injured star Lionel Messi. The Barcelona forward withdrew from the game with a pulled muscle and Maradona's team, which has slipped to fourth in World Cup qualifying, fell behind to Igor Semshov's 17th-minute strike. Sergio Aguero equalized in the final minute of the first half and goals by Lisandro Lopez and Jesus Datolo put Argentina in control before Roman Pavlyuchenko replied with a deflected freekick.

Messi's fitness

Maradona said there was no need to risk Messi's fitness in a friendly.

"We will not risk Messi for a single minute," Maradona said, looking ahead to Argentina's crunch match on September 5 at home to South American group leader Brazil. "Even if a single player is injured, it will make Brazil's life easier."

Luis Fabiano scored the winner just before halftime as a strong Brazil lineup won 1-0 against Estonia in Tallinn.

In Caribbean, Central and North American World Cup qualifying, Mexico, Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago picked up key victories, tightening the CONCACAF race.

After six of 10 matches, Costa Rica leads with 12 points followed by the United States and Honduras on 10, Mexico with nine, and El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago on five.

Mexico defeated the United States 2-1 in front of 105,000 people at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, with substitute Miguel Sabah scoring the winner in the 82nd minute.


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