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Nov 14, 2012

Brazil, Argentina both held to draws

Neymar had a night to remember and one to forget.

The young Brazilian star scored in the 64th minute and then skied a penalty kick well over the crossbar in the 81st Wednesday, leaving the five-time World Cup champions with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Colombia in an exhibition game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.

The 20-year-old offset Juan Guillermo Cuadrado's 44th-minute goal for Colombia by using his quick feet to get around a defender and score on an angled shot from 15 yards. But then, after Pablo Armero pulled down Daniel Alves in the penalty area, Neymar had an embarrassing miss.

He took several steps to his left, then slowed in his approach on the temporary grass field and sent his penalty kick a good 15 yards over the crossbar and into the stands. Neymar's tongue was hanging as he retreated to midfield.

"That's Neymar's typical way of shooting a penalty -- just not as high," Brazil coach Mano Menezes said through a translator, pointing skyward and smiling. "The grass definitely made the penalty kick a little bit more difficult than usual."

No. 13 Brazil, ranked five spots behind Colombia, never took a lead against a team it hasn't lost to in 21 years. The Brazilians have 15 wins, two losses and eight draws against the Colombians overall.

Because it is hosting the World Cup, Brazil gets an automatic berth -- meaning the players have nearly two years with no competitive international matches.

"Very difficult," Menezes said. "They have to adjust to the parameters but over time they adjust accordingly."

Center backs David Luiz and Thiago Silva pretty much shut down Colombian star Radamel Falcao.

Brazil was playing at MetLife Stadium for the third time since the 2010 World Cup -- the Selecao has only had six games in Brazil during that span. But on a cool autumn night, with mass transit still limited following Superstorm Sandy, the match drew a pro-Colombia crowd of 38,624 and the top deck was completely empty. The crowd was well below the 77,223 for Brazil's August 2010 game against the United States and 81,994 for this June's match against Argentina.

Lionel Messi endured a rare quiet night as Argentina only could register a goalless draw against Saudi Arabia in an international friendly played in Riyadh.

The South Americans were far from their best and came close to losing to the Saudis, who are led by former Barcelona boss Frank Rijkaard, and who have already crashed out of World Cup qualifying.

Messi failed in his bid to set an outright record for the most goals for the country in a calendar year. Messi shares the mark with Gabriel Batistuta with 12 goals.

"We didn't play a good match. From the beginning, we didn't do the things we needed to do," Messi said. "We basically gave away the first half, and in the second, we played a little bit better, but not much."

In the second half, Argentina needed Fabricio Coloccini to make a goal-line clearance from a Mansoor Al Harbi shot.

After that, Argentina improved slightly and a good combination between Sergio Aguero and substitute Augusto Fernandez finished with the latter forcing Waleed Abdullah into a good stop. The ball rebounded to Di Santo but he could not find the net.

Messi had been a near passenger for the majority of the night until he finally provided a glimpse of his brilliance. The Barca playmaker avoided a pair of defenders before his snap shot was blocked by defender Al Harbi.

Shortly after, the Rosario-born midfielder connected well with Angel Di Maria and went head-to-head with Abdullah, who made another excellent stop and preserve his clean sheet.

"The truth is that we didn't play well. I think it was important to avoid the defeat," Aguero said. "Despite the bad result, these kind of games are important for the growth of this squad."

Luis Suarez scored in the second half to cap Uruguay's 3-1 win in Poland.

At Marlins Park in Miami, Ideye Brown and Igiebor Nosa scored in a 5-minute span early in the second half to help Nigeria beat Venezuela 3-1 .

Donis Escobar made a last-minute save for Honduras to preserve a 0-0 tie with Peru.

Information from Press Association and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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