Hello and welcome.The Qatari capital of Doha's Khalifa International Stadium is the scene for tonight's international friendly between Brazil and Argentina (orthe Seleçãoandla albiceleste, if you're angling for a long overdue mention in Private Eye's Pseuds Corner - this week starringour own Jonathan Wilson), which kicks off at 8pm local time (5pm GMT). Pride and bragging rights are at stake in tonight's match between these fierce South American rivals, with both sides deadlocked on 33 wins apiece in 89 encounters.
Each arrives with different managers to those who led them into and out of the World Cup with varying degrees of ignominy:Mano Menezestook over as Brazil boss from Dunga in July, whileSergio Batistawas appointed Diego Maradona's successor about a fortnight ago, following a three-match spell in charge as caretaker.
A former defender who packed in a fairly undistinguished playing career to become a fitness coach, Menezes's stints in charge of Gremio and Corinthians were his most high profile management gigs prior to getting the Brazil job. He wasn't the Brazilian FA's first choice to succeed Dunga, but was offered the position when Fluminese refused to release Muricy Ramalho. His first match in charge was a 2-0 win over the USA, in which Dani Alves, Ramires, Thiago Silva and Robinho were the only players retained from the World Cup squad.
A World Cup-winning piano-carrier alongside his decidedly eccentric predecessor El Diez in 1986, Sergio Batista was appointed Argentina U-20 boss in 2007 and also managed his national U-23 side to Olympic gold in 2008. After taking temporary control of the senior side in the wake of Maradona's departure, he oversaw victories against the Republic of Ireland and Spain, plus defeat at the hands of Japan. It was enough to get him the job on a full-time basis and tonight is his first official match in charge.
Batista has already stamped his own managerial mark on Argentina, recalling Esteban Cambiasso and Javier Zanetti from the internatinoal wilderness, with their fellow outcast Juan Román Riquelme expected to return to the fold before long.
If tonight's match in Doha is an attempt to toady up to Fifa in a bid to secure the rights to stage World Cup 2022, it might be too late. This from the news wires:
Fifa inspectors have delivered a hammer blow to Qatar's hopes of hosting the 2022 World Cup. A confidential report, which has been sent only to the 24 Fifa executive committee members who will vote on the hosts on December 2, rates Qatar as a high overall operational risk.
The Middle Eastern country also has a high risk warning over team facilities and there are eight other medium risk categories. There are also warnings that the summer heat in Qatar poses a potential health risk to players, officials, fans and "the Fifa family".
Australia and Korea emerge as the countries with the best technical report from the inspectors - both are judged low risk overall operationally and in terms of legal risk.
The USA and Japan both suffer from issues over government guarantees and are judged a medium overall legal risk. The Fifa administration are believed to be desperate to avoid a World Cup in Qatar and those close to the Qatar bid believe the inspection report has been biased against them.
In a statement however, Qatar bid chief executive Hassan Al-Thawadi insisted the report gave credit for their "innovative plans" and legacy.
Team news:Perhaps because everyone's too busy fretting over whether or not Andy Carroll will start for England in tonight's friendly against France, there os no team news from Doha on the news wires, or anywhere else that I can find, yet. Interestingly, ESPN, who are broadcasting Argentina v Brazil, which kicks off in 15 minutes, are currently showing last night's FA Cup first round replay between Woking and Brighton. They're currently 2-2 in injury time of extra time, which means there's a penalty shoot-out to go before they head over to Doha. Hmmm ...
Still no team news, and the even worse news for Woking is that Brighton have beaten them 3-0 on penalties again this afternoon, just like they did last night.
Reader Michael Ryan has found these line-ups on Twitter, so they must be correct. Thanks Michael.
Brazil:Victor; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, André Santos; Lucas, Ramires, Elias; Ronaldinho, Neymar, Robinho.
Not long now:ESPN have finally gone to coverage of the match, which is about to kick off. Fasten your seatbelts, let's do this thing.
1 min:Brazil kick off, undefeated in their last five matches against Argentina. Both sides are kitted out in the duds with which they are most readily associated.
3 min:The camera angles for this match are wrong, all wrong. It's as if they only brought one camera to the game and then added insult to injury by putting the lense on backwards.
3 min:Brazil win a free-kick about 35 yards from the Argentina goal when Nicolas Pareja brings down Neymar. Ronaldinho stands over the free-kick and strikes the ball straight into the defensive wall. It drops for Andre Santos, who shoots harmlessly wide.
5 min:Gabriel Heinze gets penalised for a scything tackle on Elias in midfield. The challenges are flying in and both sides have started at quite a lick - this is a friendly in name only.
6 min:Ronaldinho and Robinho link up beautifully with some beautiful firt-touch passing, before the former threads the ball through the centre of the Argentina penalty area for Neymar to chase. There's much "oomf" on the ball and Sergio Romero dashes off his line to claim.
8 min:Argentina attack courtesy of Messi, who tries to jink his way into the Brazil penalty area. David Luiz keeps his eye on the ball, takes it from his toe and ambles out of defence.
9 min:More good defending from Luiz, who blocks a Pastore cross and a Lionel Messi shot in quick succession.
10 min:Messi and Angel Di Maria combine well on the left-hand side of the Brazil penalty area. With the ball at his toe, Di Maria runs across the face of the Brazil penalty area, trying to make room for a shot, but a poor touch lets him down and he eventually slashes the ball out for a throw-in. Admittedly, it did take a deflection off the leg of a defender.
14 min:A decent scoring opportunity for Brazil goes to waste after a disappointingly leaden-footed touch from Neymar, who is sporting an interesting mohawk type barnet that makes him resemble a toilet brush. Under pressure from a defender and trying to control a cross from the right, he ended up shanking the ball across the face of goal.
16 min:"The Qatar World Cup bid is a non-starter," writes Justin Kavanagh. "I went to see Brazil play Sweden in the Silverdome in Detroit in 1994 and despite the presence of rowdy Brazilians, the atmosphere was flat. The indoor venue was a cross between a hamburger-smelling circus tent and a fridge. The grass was dying after two previous games and dust flew up with every bounce of the ball. Plus it was about 100º outside where the rest of the games were and Steve Staunton and Denis Irwin nearly combusted."
17 min:Ronaldinho does well to turn two defenders, before poking the ball towards Elias. He tries a shot from distance, but doesn't get hold of it properly and shanks the ball harmlessly wide.
18 min:After a neat one-two with Neymar on the edge of the Argentina box, the ball drops kindly for galloping full-back Dani Alves, who along with Andre Santos has clearly been given permission to get forward as much as he likes this evening. He rattles the crossbar with a surface-to-air drive on the half-volley.
20 min:Brazil win a free-kick wide on the right, a good distance out from the Argentina goal. Dani Alves curls the ball into the penalty area, where Heinze puts it out for a corner from which nothing comes.
21 min:Well, I say nothing, but we almost saw a comical own goal from Javier Mascherano. With Brazil pinging the ball around the hinterland surrounding the Argentina penalty area, Neymar pulled the ball diagonally across the box from the byline, prompting Mascherano to welt it out for a corner. He miscued his "clearance", however and came perilously close to rifling the ball into the roof of his own net.
24 min:Some lovely play from both sides so far, lots of tiki-taka first-touch passing, fancy flicks and dinks and no shortage of stout defending either. Ronaldinho tries to score with a back-heel from seven or eight yards, but doesn't get enough purchase on the ball and his commendable effort is foiled.
27 min:Great play from Lionel Messi, who splits the Brazil defence with a slight increase in tempo and a drop of the shoulder. He plays the ball wide to Gonzalo Higuain, whose attempted dink into the six-yard box is headed clear by Thiago Silva.
28 min:In the Brazil goal, Victor pulls off two tremendous saves in quick succession from a long-range Gonzalo Higuain header and the follow-up from Javier Pastore. His efforts were wasted - had the ball gone in, it wouldn't have counted. The linesman had flagged because there were two Argentinians offside when Higuain headed the ball. Replays suggest he was mistaken.
31 min:Neymar lays the ball off to Andre Santos on the edge of the Argentina penalty area. He tries to get a shot off, but his effort is blocked. Meanwhile ESPN publish an apology for "the poor quality of picture". Well they might, although it's not their fault - the location of the cameras areavant garde, to say the least.
34 min:Not for the first time this evening, Neymar goes down rather easily in the Argentina penalty area and appeals for a penalty. None is forthcoming.
37 min:Brazil win a free-kick on the left flank, which Ronaldinho decides to take. He curls the ball around the Argentina wall towards the left side of the goal, where Sergio Romero punches clear, when he could easily have caught the ball.
39 min:Lionel Messi picks up the ball on the edge of the final third, surges forward and unleashes a left-footed drive. His fine effort hits the top of the left upright and goes wide.
39 min:"International Friendly, eh?" writes cynicism's Gary Naylor. "No doubt contractually obliged by Nike or whoever, so it must be 'prestigious'. Anyway, I expect Argentina to win as, like their fellow self-regarding preening drama queens of top sport, the All Blacks, they are the world's best ... until it matters." Oof! Take that Argentina! Take that All Black bottlers! Take that Swoosh-merchants!
41 min:Dani Alves, about whom few sentences missing the word "galloping" are ever written, tries to get a cross in from the right, but is foiled by Angel Di Maria, who was back covering.
44 min:The camera pans to Sir Alex Ferguson and Zinedine Zidane in the stands. They're both suited, booted and sitting in plush red armchairs. They're one large box of popcorn and a bucket of fizzy pop away from looking like a couple enjoying a romantic night out at the Brixton Ritzy.
45 min:On the left wing, Neymar goes on a surging run and cuts inside, only for Javier Zanetti to put a stop to his gallop.
Half-timeThe referee brings a reasonably entertaining first half to a close. There was some excellent play and occasional flashes of brilliance, but one can't help but feel that a goal or two would have livened things up no end.
Half-time punditry:"Barry, I set you the challenge of making an ill-informed, myopic judgement on whether or not Pastore is in fact worthy of the title 'the new Riquelme' by the end of this game," writes Gavin Sweeney. The new Riquelme? What's wrong with the old Riquelme? To be honest, I'm too worried about the number of Nike-approved substitutes each team might bring on for the second half, to concern myself with languid Palermo midfielders. We haven't had so much as a team line-up on this broadcast to date, so I'm not holding out much hope of ODing on information about replacements.
Not long now:Having left Brazil waiting for several minutes, Argentina finally emerge for the second half. Brazil are definitely unchanged, while Argentina have replaced Gonzalo Higuain with Napoli striker Ezequiel Lavezzi, who scored against Liverpool in the Europa League a couple of weeks ago.
46 min:Argentina get the second half started. We could really do with a goal to prevent this encounter descending into Typical International Friendly Second Half Farce, involving multiple substitutions of players who'd much rather be elsewhere.
47 min:Lucas ... or possibly somebody else, tries to play Neymar through on goal, but there's a tiny bit too much zip on the ball and Sergio Romero dashes off his line to hack clear.
50 min:After a Brazil move breaks down when Neymar runs down a blind alley, Argentina surge forward. Pastore tries to pick out Di Maria with a pass, but puts too much welly on the ball.
53 min:Brazil go close to breaking the deadlock after winning a free-kick a good distance out, over by the left touchline. Ronaldinho curls an inswinger across the mixer - his delivery is approximately six inches to high for Thiago Silva, who tries to head home from the edge of the six-yard box.
54 min:"I wouldn't say that the picture quality is low, it just has a retro World Cup 1994 VHS ambiance," writes James Wells. "I think Fifa should run with this. Instead of the crazy futuristic holograms Japan is suggesting for World Cup 2022, they should instead go retro. Say, black and white super-speed FA Cup from the 1890's style? You know, before there was inane commentary? Qatar is on to something here."
55 min:Qatar is not on to something here.
56 min:Great play from Argentina, who storm forward on the counter-attack after the breakdown of a nice Brazilian move orchestrated by Ronaldinho and Dani Alves. Ezequiel Levezzi sends in a cross from the right, goalkeeper Victor can only flap the ball to the feet of Pastore, who shoots, sees it cannon off a defender ... shoots again and appeals for a penalty for hand-balll. He doesn't get one.
58 min:Ramires tries to score with a ridiculously ambitious bicycle-kick, with predictably hilarious consequences.
59 min:Javier Mascherano gets booked for a fairly robust challenge on Ronaldinho. It's a bit harsh - I've seen himnotget booked for a lot worse and this hasn't been a dirty game.
60 min:"Mano Menezes is picking a lot of Brazilian based players right now," writes Stewart Faith in Sao Paulo. "He is either being very political and giving the Brazilian media/public what they want or is embarking on a long term plan for 2014. Picking Ronaldinho makes me think that the former is probably closer to the mark. Everybody here in Brazil still thinks he is good."
61 min:Lionel Messi temporarily loses his cool after getting fouled three times in quick succession by Sideshow Bob lookalike David Luiz. The Brazilian gets booked for his troubles.
63 min:Excellent refereeing from the local match official, who plays the advantage after Neymar is upended just outside the Argentina penalty area. The ball runs on to Robinho, who manages to turn and unleash a shot through his marker's legs, bringing a marvellous save out of the unsighted Sergio Romero.
64 min:"America's ESPN 2 has just informed us that the USA's upcoming match with South Africa is 'the truest meaning of the word friendly'," writes Ross McKenzie. "Steve McManaman is in the studio pretending to be American. His hair is slicked back like Antonio Banderas' and he's waving his hands around with the kind of idiotic enthusiasm you usually only see on Fox News."
66 min:Brazil win a free-kick, about 35 yards from the Argentina goal, well left of centre. Ronaldinho takes it, sending a low drive skimming once ... twice ... along the top-soil, straight into the hands of the watchful Sergio Romero.
68 min:Elias fouls Messi on just outside the Brazil penalty area, on the right flank. Free-kick for Argentina, which is cleared.
69 min:Argentina substitution: Javier Pastore off after a fairly disappointing performance, Andres D'Alessandro from Brazilian club side Inter on.
70 min:"How was that 'excellent refereeing' (min 63) when Robinho was flagged offsides and the referee gave a free kick to Argentina?" asks Jonathan Francis, who is one of those strange folk who likes to read minute-by-minute text commentaries of matches they can see. "So in essence Neymar was fouled and Brazil had an advantage for the exact time it took the ball to roll to an offsides Robinho, and then the ref promptly gave the ball to Argentina. Seems the antithesis of 'advantage' to me. But then, I'm not a fancy MBM reporter." No, you're not and you never will be. On the basis of your post, I'm not sure you'd pass the many complex psychiatric evaluations required to become "a fancy minute-by-minute reporter.
73 min:I have no idea what Jonathan Francis is talking about, by the way. He may well be right, but I didn't see any offside flag. Brazil substitution: Manchester United and Real Madrid target Douglas on, Ronaldinho off.
76 min:Another Brazilian substitution: Neymar off, Fenerbahce's Andre Santos on. His feathery mohawk is even more preposterous than that of the man he's just replaced.
79 min:Brazil win a free-kick about 30 or more yards from the Argentina goal for a foul on Andre Santos. Dani Alves takes a two-step run-up and sends the ball fizzing three or four feet over the bar.
80 min:There's a brief interclude as a fully-clothed "streaker" invades the pitch and sprints the length of it, with seven or eight stewards in hot pursuit. They catch him ... eventually. I'm not too well up on the Middle Eastern judicial system, but couldn't he get slung in the jug for averylong time for that? Or possibly even put to death?
83 min:Lionel Messi attempts to ferret and shimmy his way through the Brazilian defence, but has the ball taken off his toe by an excellent tackle by Thiago Silva.
83 min:"Re: Jonathan Francis's chippy email," writes John Allen. "I didn't see an offside flag either, but then I am watching NCIS on Korean TV."
84 min:We are officially in the realms of the Farcical Friendly, as international caps are doled out like snuff at a wake. Ramires off, Jucilet on. I have no idea who he is.
87 min:What began as a promising enough match has now completely died on it's arse. The players are just going through the motions, with one eye on the clock hoping to get their private jets back to wherever it is they have to get back to, sooner rather than later. Still, at least we got an entertaining 45 minutes, which is probably one half's worth of fun more than England reserves will put on against France's Under-12s at Wembley tonight. Football friendlies - one word: why?
GOAL! Argentina 1-0 Brazil (Messi 90+2)Messi wins the game for Argentina with a sensational goal in injury-time. Picking the ball up on the halfway line, he pinged it forward to Lavezzi, sprinted ahead of his team-mate and picked up the return pass. With four - yes, four! - Brazil defenders surrounding him, he jinked right, then left and drifted a little more left before firing a low drive across Victor's bows and into the bottom right-hand corner. A marvellous goal from the Atomic Ant, who gets harshly booked for his celebrations.
Peep! Peep! Peep!It's all over - Argentina triumph courtesy of Leo Messi's 15th international goal, which means he's finished on the winning side in a match against Brazil for the first time in - I'm fairly certain - six attempts. Last word tonight goes to Jonathan Francis, who I may have been a bit hard on earlier.
"Apparently, no one has yet figured out a way to inject specific tone into emails," he writes. "My use of the word 'fancy' was not meant as a proper insult. I am right about the flag though... "