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Spain spikes England, Argentina stuns France

SPAIN ruined David Beckham's celebrations of equaling England's appearance record for an outfield player with a 2-0 win Wednesday.

Beckham came on as a halftime substitute in Seville for his 108th international appearance, but David Villa and Fernando Llorente scored to hand England its first loss in almost a year. The loss of England's unbeaten streak shows it still has plenty of work to do after missing last year's European Championship, which Spain won.

Euro 2008 runner-up Germany was also in friendly action on Wednesday, losing to Norway for the first time in 73 years when it was beaten 0-1. Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 2-0 win at France, while Cristiano Ronaldo hit a penalty to give Portugal a 1-0 win over Finland.

Spain kept possession throughout and went ahead in the 36th when Villa collected the ball on the edge of the area, twisted through the defense and scored with a low shot.

Beckham came on as one of five halftime replacements for England, but it was a Spain substitute - Llorente - who made the biggest impact, heading in Xavi Hernandez's cross.

"They always keep the ball well. They're a nation of players that pass the ball around well," said Beckham. "They got two good goals."

Beckham said the result affected his enjoyment in equaling Bobby Moore's appearance record. Only goalkeeper Peter Shilton, with 125 appearances, has played more games for England.

"I've always said I'd be honored to be up there with the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore, but the most important thing is the game," Beckham said.

Without a victory in 2008, Norway won its first game under new coach Egil Olsen despite missing some of its biggest stars. Germany, meanwhile, has now lost consecutive games ahead of its March 28 World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein.

Christian Grindheim scored in the 63rd minute in Duesseldorf for Norway.

"Norway was very well organized. We gave them time to get 10 men behind the ball," Germany coach Joachim Loew said. "This was not an undeserved loss. But we will learn our lesson from this, I can promise that."

Croatia's warmup for its next qualifier for the 2010 World Cup - on April 1 at Andorra - went much better with striker Eduardo da Silva's return from a year out through injury.

Ivan Rakitic equalized midway through the first half and Niko Kranjcar scored from Eduardo's pass with 15 minutes remaining to take Croatia's unbeaten streak to three matches since a humbling 1-4 home loss to England in September.

Jonas Gutierrez had already put Argentina ahead in Marseille when Messi collected the ball outside the penalty area in the 83rd, got through the home defense and beat goalkeeper Steve Mandanda with a shot inside his right post. The result gave Diego Maradona his second straight win as Argentina coach, but heaped pressure upon his French counterpart, Raymond Domenech.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba marked his first international match in more than a year with an injury-time equalizer that earned Ivory Coast a 1-1 draw in Turkey.

Gokhan Unal put Turkey ahead in the 11th with a shot into the top right corner of the net and Drogba missed several good chances in front of goal before tapping in a cross from the right in the second minute of added time.

Greece drew 1-1 with visiting Denmark, while Sweden won 2-0 against Austria, Belgium beat Slovenia 2-0 and Israel defeated Hungary 1-0 in other friendly matches.

Tottenham striker Robbie Keane scored twice in five second-half minutes to give Ireland a 2-1 win over Georgia that put his team level with World Cup holder Italy at the top of European qualifying Group 8. Albania drew 0-0 at Malta but still moved into third place in its qualifying group, ahead of Portugal.


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