Lionel Messi #10 of Argentina during the first half of a friendly match against the United States. Messi scored a hat trick against Switzerland on February 29, 2012. (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

International Friendlies 2012: Lionel Messi Nets Hat Trick, Netherlands Down England

Lionel Messi was at his best in an Argentina win on Wednesday, while England and Holland played an absolute thriller at Wembley.

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Mexico Vs. Colombia: El Tri's New Faces Struggle In Defeat

Mexico's new starters looked overmatched on Wednesday night, while Giovani dos Santos looked very much like a player who has not played regular club football in quite some time. El Tri were very poor through the center and debutant Enrique Pérez was badly exposed in one instance, as Colombia defeated them 2-0 in Miami.

While Mexico looked good in the early going, they weren't able to make the most of their early chances with Colombia keeper David Ospina bravely coming off his like to deny opportunities on multiple occasions. Colombia scored the opening goal in the 36th minute on a free kick, and El Tri's poor marking was to blame. After Jesús Zavala headed away the initial free kick, he forgot about the man he was initially marking. That man just happened to be Atlético Madrid's top scorer, Radamel Falcao. "Memo" Guillermo Ochoa saved a shot by Dorlan Pabón after the clearance, but the ball deflected right to the unmarked Falcao, who had an easy finish.

From then until the end of the match, Mexico looked very sloppy. The second goal came in the second half from some wonderful combination play down Colombia's left flank, where James Rodríguez hooked up with Pablo Armero. Rodríguez held up the ball after receiving a switch pass and gave Armero a pass onto which he could run. He easily sped around Pérez like he was standing still before putting in a cross, which a poorly marked Juan Cuadrado finished easily.

Mexico's middle three and right back were a serious issue on Wednesday, and they will need to get those positions sorted before heading to World Cup qualifying. Even against second-tier CONCACAF opposition, they will struggle if their center of midfield plays like Zavala and the dos Santos brothers played against Colombia.


England Vs. Holland: Highlights

England vs. Holland might not have been the best result for interim manager Stuart Pearce and new captain Scott Parker, but the second half was a thriller, featuring a sweet strike by Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben, a headed goal by Klaas-Jan Huntelaar that ended up forcing both the Schalke forward and centre back Chris Smalling off the pitch, an amazing miss by Daniel Sturridge, a striker's goal from centre back Gary Cahill, Ashley Young equalizing in injury time and then Robben doing it all again for the win. If that sentence was too convoluted for you, then I've got good news -- you can see it all in video form below:

Sometimes it's the games in which neither team plays particularly well that are the most fun. So it proved here -- if Holland hadn't been so timid for most of the match, they'd have slaughtered England and we never would have had that crazy final five minutes.


Captain Scotty Parker's Mission Report

The English national team were defeated 3-2 by the Netherlands in a friendly at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday. But how did new captain Scott Parker see things?


Mexico Vs. Colombia: Lineups

Soccer United Marketing is driving away in their money truck from yet another Mexican national team friendly. Mexico are playing Colombia in Miami on Wednesday night, and both teams are fielding extremely strong teams for what should be a very entertaining match. 'Chepo' Jose Manuel de la Torre seems to have determined that it's time to find his World Cup 2014 center of midfield, and he's dropped his veterans for some youngsters in the middle. Otherwise, things are pretty close to normal. Colombia has mixed and matched their first and second teams.

Mexico Lineup (4-2-3-1): Ochoa; Salcido, Marquez, Moreno, E. Perez; Zavala, J. Dos Santos; Guardado, G. Dos Santos, Barrera; Hernandez

Colombia Lineup (4-3-3): Ospina; Armero, Perea, Mosquera, Zuniga; Sanchez, Ramirez, J. Rodriguez; Cuadrado, Falcao; Pabon

The game kicks off at 8:00 p.m. ET from Sun Life Stadium in Miami, Florida. You can catch the game on Univision in the United States.

For more on Mexican football, check out FMF State Of Mind.


Spain Vs. Venezuela: La Furia Roja Demolish Opposition 5-0

Fernando Torres is in terrible form and David Villa's injury will prevent him from playing regular competitive football in the build-up to Euro 2012, but La Furia Roja appear to have found their replacement. Valencia striker Roberto Soldado scored a hat trick in the second half against Venezuela and netted his first two goals in his first eight minutes on the pitch as Spain cruised to a 5-0 win over Venezuela.

The visitors kept Spain off the scoreboard until the 37th minute, but the flood gates were opened at that time and Spain would dominate for the rest of the match. Andres Iniesta scored the opener, finishing from the edge of the box after a great pass from Cesc Fabregas. David Silva sent his side into halftime up 2-0, cutting into the center of the box from the right and blasting a left-footed shot into the bottom corner in the 40th minute.

Soldado entered as a substitute for Fernando Llorente at halftime and netted his first goal in the 50th minute, putting himself in the right place to tap in a cross by Santi Cazorla. He scored his second three minutes later in similar fashion, finishing a cross from Alvaro Arbeloa.

The game was probably over once Spain scored their first, but Venezeula threw away all chance of keeping the score respectable when Fernando Amorebieta was sent off in the 65th minute for denying Soldado a clear goal-scoring opportunity. He stepped up to try and complete his hat trick, but hit a poor penalty that was saved easily by Daniel Hernandez.

Soldado would complete his hat trick in the 84th minute, but the assist was the most impressive part of the goal. Cutting in from the left, Soldado's Valencia teammate Jordi Alba nutmegged Rolf Feltscher, then played a low cross into the box for Soldado to finish his third tap-in of the game.


England Vs. Holland: Robben Brace Puts Down England

Caretaker England manager Stuart Pearce would have been hoping for a good result from his side today in their friendly against the Netherlands at Wembley. He very nearly got it too, only to be denied at the last minute by a lovely goal by Arjen Robben that made it 3-2 to Holland.

A win would very probably have been undeserved - England did a fine job imposing themselves on the match in the first half before falling apart defensively in the second, conceding twice in two minutes thanks to a fine finish from Robben and then a header from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The second goal also cost the Three Lions centre back Chris Smalling, who was badly hurt in a collision with Huntelaar as he tried to cut out Dirk Kuyt's cross. The Manchester United centre back eventually left the pitch on a stretcher, going straight to hospital with a head injury.

Holland weren't really deserving of a two-goal lead and England began taking steps to reduce the deficit, coming closest when substitute Daniel Sturridge missed a sitter from two yards out, firing straight at a hopelessly out of position Maarten Stekelenburg rather than simply guiding the ball into the back of the net. The Chelsea man would limp off the field shortly thereafter.

England's next few attacks had more luck. Gary Cahill decided to play striker for a little while and was put clean through (from an offside position, however) on goal, shooting past Steckelenburg to make it 2-1. Then another centre back got involved in the attack, with Phil Jones slipping club teammate Ashley Young in to dink over the goalkeeper's head and make it 2-2 in the 91st minute.

Pearce must have thought his side had secured a draw, but with almost the last kick of the game, Robben danced into the penalty area, cut back onto his left foot, and made seven England defenders look like idiots with a sweet curled finish.

Ultimately, a 3-2 loss in a friendly game doesn't matter that much, and there were a few encouraging performances from Pearce's perspective. However, there were also far too many injuries, with Steven Gerrard, Smalling and Sturridge all forced off the pitch. You can bet that there'll be a set of clubs rather angry that their players were hurt in a completely meaningless match.


Italy Vs. United States: Americans Beat Azzurri, 1-0, Thanks To Clint Dempsey Goal

The United States didn't need many chances at goal against Italy. All they needed was one and Clint Dempsey took advantage of that one, scoring in the 56th minute to propel the U.S. past the Azzurri, 1-0, in Genoa, Italy.

It was not the prettiest of starts for the Americans and Italy pressed early on and almost scored within five minutes, but Tim Howard made a fine save to keep the U.S. even. A couple more chances came for the Italians, but as time went on, the chances went away.

The U.S. may not have created any decent chances in the first half, but they were strong at the back and in the midfield. Their organized defense drew Italy offside time and time again and the U.S. midfield closed down on any build up play. It wasn't exactly entertaining, but it was effective and the two sides went to halftime scoreless.

The beginning of the second half looked exactly like the first as the two teams battled in the midfield without a chance either way. That would only last for 10 minutes, though, because seemingly out of nowhere, the U.S. found a chance.

Fabian Johnson came flying forward from his left back spot and for the first time all match, the Italy defense was under pressure. Johnson hit a floating cross into the center for Jozy Altidore, who had his back to goal in the middle of the box. With a defender on him, Altidore made up for a very poor first 55 minutes with a great bit of hold up play as he brought the ball down with a good touch and then laid the ball off for an onrushing Dempsey. From there, Dempsey had a simple finish and the Americans' best player wasn't going to botch it, sliding the ball across Gianluigi Buffon and home for the winning goal.

Italy did their best to equalize, but it just wasn't there. The U.S. defense was organized and they were given considerable help by Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu, who made tackle after tackle in front of the back line. Italy couldn't break the U.S. down and as much of the ball as they had, they never really created chances.

Eventually, the final whistle blew and the U.S. had themselves their first ever win against Italy, dating back to their first first match against the Azzurri back in 1934. In addition, the Americans became the first team to ever beat the Italians in Genoa, ending the Azzurri's undefeated run at Stadio Luigi Ferraris.


Germany Vs. France: Mathieu Debuchy The Difference For Les Bleus

For the most part, Germany and France played an even game in Bremen on Wednesday. The two teams were even in shots and possession, with Germany looking like the slightly more dangerous side for most of the game. France hit on the counter on two occasions, however, and there was one major matchup difference that turned the result towards Les Bleus. Mathieu Debuchy was fantastic in a man of the match performance as France pulled off a minor upset over Germany, winning 2-1.

Debuchy defended well at right back and created both goals. In both instances, he absolutely torched Germany left back Dennis Aogo, an athletic and generally consistent player, and it was surprising to see him get beaten so easily. France's first goal came in the 21st minute, with Mathieu Valbuena releasing Debuchy down the right. He set up Ligue 1 leading scorer Oliver Giroud for his first goal in a France shirt, scored with a simple finish.

The second goal came in the 69th minute, and the finish was a bit less simple. Germany was almost able to clear during a big scuffle for the ball on the line, but Florent Malouda won the battle and was able to poke the ball into the back of the net.

Germany found a consolation goal in stoppage time, with substitutes Thomas Müller and Cacau combining to make it 2-1, but Joachim Löw will still be disappointed with his team, their defending, and their inability to finish numerous chances.


Switzerland Vs. Argentina: Lionel Messi Nets Hat Trick In Albiceleste Win

There is a rumor that circulates around the world that Lionel Messi doesn't play as well in an Argentina shirt as he does in a Barcelona shirt. He'll probably need to win a World Cup or Copa America to truly silence the critics who utter that refrain, but he did quite a bit to kill off that idea with a hat trick on Wednesday, as the Albiceleste defeated Switzerland 3-1 in Bern.

Messi scored the opener just 19 minutes in, combining with Sergio Aguero. The Manchester City man received a pass from Messi, who had just made a brilliant run through the midfield, and played a skillful backheel back to him. Messi stepped up and finished calmly, and Argentina would go into halftime with a 1-0 lead.

Switzerland's young star Xherdan Shaqiri would tie up the match just four minutes into the half, cleaning up a mess after a cross into the box. The ball deflected out to the unmarked Basel star, and he finished easily. It took until late in the match for Argentina to take the lead back, but they would do it in spectacular fashion. Messi netted the eventual winner with a spectacular run through the defense after a bad Switzerland giveaway, then finished with a chipped shot that just barely snuck in under the crossbar.

In stoppage time, Switzerland gave away a penalty and Messi stepped to the spot, converting the penalty to complete his hat trick.


England Vs. Holland: Chris Smalling Injured In Collision

Manchester United centre back Chris Smalling has been stretchered off at Wembley Stadium after a clash of heads with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar during England's friendly against the Netherlands. The 22-year-old was attempting to defend a cross early in the second half, going up for Dirk Kuyt's delivery, but Huntelaar beat him to the ball, nodding past Joe Hart for the second Dutch goal - and then following through straight into the side of Smalling's head.

Smalling appeared to be knocked out while still in midair, and he landed very awkwardly, staying on the ground for several minutes while trainers came on to treat him. He was awake and alert when the stretcher came on, but it seems likely that he'll have to miss at least one match after that - it was a really really ugly looking collision and one that's probably caused a concussion. Club teammate Phil Jones has replaced the young defender.

Huntelaar didn't get off particularly easy either. The Schalke striker appears to have broken his nose - he too is forced off in place of Luuk de Jong.


England Vs. Holland: Lineups

Arsenal striker Robin van Persie has recovered from an injury scare to start for Holland against England at Wembley Stadium, where the other piece of big news is Stuart Pearce's choice of Scott Parker as England captain. Steven Gerard, widely expected to be the man to lead England to the Euros, is in the lineup ahead of him despite playing 120 minutes on Sunday. Can Pearce, who's auditioning for the England job permanently, put on enough of a show to convince the FA to leave him in charge?

England starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Joe Hart; Leighton Baines, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling, Micah Richards; Gareth Barry, Scott Parker; Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard, Adam Johnson; Danny Welbeck.

Substitutes from: Robert Green, Joleon Lescott, Ashley Cole, Stewart Downing, James Milner, Scott Carson, Frazier Campbell, Theo Walcott, Daniel Sturridge, Phil Jones.

Netherlands starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Maarten Stekelenburg; Erik Pieters, Joris Mathijsen, John Heitinga, Khalid Boulahrouz; Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong; Dirk Kuyt, Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben; Robin van Persie.

Substitutes from: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Stijn Schaars, Urby Emanuelson, Tim Krul, Georgino Wijnaldum, Kevin Strootman, Luuk de Jong, Ron Vlaar, Luciano Narsingh, Ola John, Jeffrey Bruma.

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