EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey — Lionel Messi scored a hat trick as Argentina beat Brazil 4-3 in a lively friendly Saturday, dealing a blow to the Brazilians as they wrapped up their preparations for the London Olympics.
Brazil took the lead in the 23rd minute when a quickly taken free-kick found Romulo, who banged in the goal as Argentina’s defenders appealed in vain for offside.
Argentina equalized in the 31st minute after Gonzalo Higuain robbed Brazilian captain Sandro and fed Messi, who shot low into the corner of the goal. Within three minutes, the diminutive striker put Argentina 2-1 up, running on to a pass from Angel di Maria and rounding Brazilian goalkeeper Rafael Cabral.
Brazil got back in the end-to-end game in the second half when Oscar scored from close range after 56 minutes and then reclaimed the lead when Hulk took advantage of a fumble by Argentine goalkeeper Sergio Romero to score.
But Argentina stormed back quickly as Federico Fernandez headed in from a corner in the 75th minute before Messi scored the best goal of the game with a trademark run and shot from outside the penalty area in the 84th minute.
Brazil’s Marcelo and Argentina’s Ezequiel Lavezzi were sent off for an altercation in injury time.
The game was played in front of a sell-out crowd of nearly 82,000 at Meadowlands Stadium, home of New York’s two American football teams, the Giants and the Jets.
Sampdoria back in Serie A
Sampdoria made a quick return to Italian football’s top tier after Nicola Pozzi scored the only goal in the second leg of the Serie B playoff against Varese Saturday.
Having won the first leg 3-2 at home, Sampdoria had to hold its nerve at the Lombardian club before Pozzi struck in the 91st minute.
With 10,000 fans watching the game back in Genoa on a big screen in the city’s Piazzale Kennedy, Samp won promotion after spending a single season in the second division.
The Blucerchiati join Torino and Pescara as the three promoted teams from Serie B, replacing relegated Lecce, Novara and Cesena. ‘Arsenal can’t win
Van Persie cash war’
Arsenal chairman Peter Hill-Wood admits his club will struggle to keep Robin van Persie if the Gunners captain is offered a mega-money deal elsewhere.
Van Persie’s current contract expires at the end of next season and Arsenal is keen to tie the Dutch forward to a new deal on improved terms.
Some reports claim Arsenal is willing to offer van Persie wages of around £130,000-a-week to stay at the Emirates Stadium.
But big-spending Manchester City and Spanish giant Barcelona and Real Madrid are all thought to be considering the kind of huge salary offer that would blow Arsenal out of the water.
Hill-Wood concedes that if money is van Persie’s primary motivation then the striker, who scored 37 goals for Arsenal last season, will most likely leave.
“He is vital to us and has been an extremely good captain,” Hill-Wood told the Sunday Mirror. “But if somebody comes along and offers Robin £250,000 a week then I am afraid we cannot compete with that.
“With players, you never know what they are going to do. There are players like Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes at Manchester United who have been loyal to one club but players like that are few and far between.
“Hopefully we can reach accord with Robin and ideally he will extend his contract.” —Agencies