Wednesday 11 December 2019

Guerreiro settles major anti-climax as galacticos exit stage early

Argentina 0 Portugal 1

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is challenged by Facundo Roncaglia of Argentina during their friendly at Old Trafford. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo is challenged by Facundo Roncaglia of Argentina during their friendly at Old Trafford. Photo: REUTERS/Phil Noble
Argentina's Angel di Maria tries to get the better of Portugal defender Pepe during their friendly at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Argentina's Lionel Messi skips betwen challenges from Portugal pair Joao Moutinho and Tiago during their friendly at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Portugal winger Nani gets away from Argentina's Javier Mascherano during their friendly at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire
Raphael Guerreiro celebrates scoring the winning goal for Portugal in their friendly against Argentina at Old Trafford. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA Wire

Jim White

It lasted no more than 45 minutes. Billed as the meeting of the galacticos, the battle for Ballon d'Or laid on for a Mancunian audience, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were substituted at half-time in this friendly between Argentina and Portugal.

It was an evident pre-arrangement that redefined the term anti-climax. 41,233 had paid £60 for a ticket to watch this exhibition in money-making, organised by an outfit called World XI. That was £60 each only to have their pleasure curtailed after only 45 minutes of phoney war.

As an exercise in financial cynicism it was up there with the early career of Audley Harrison.

Still, it gave Anderson an opportunity to see what proper footballers look like. Manchester United's Brazilian misfit sat in the directors' box alongside Radamel Falcao - the pair of them flanking the Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes. Anderson spent the match smiling quietly to himself at the sight of others running around down below him. Captaining their sides, Ronaldo and Messi had studiously ignored each other as they led their teams out. Ronaldo did a couple of exaggerated leaps as he stepped out on the turf on which he once regularly left scorch marks. Messi had been asked in a newspaper interview on the morning of the match if he wanted to stay at Barcelona for the rest of his career, had made some intriguing comments about how "you never know in football". He may well have been taking in the surroundings with additional interest.

And as they came out, there were enough of an audience cramming into the stadium's lower tiers, to make it clear who they supported. A poignant reminder of when the local team counted in their number the finest in the game, it was Ronaldo's name that was cheered to the echo. It was his deft little back heel in the 20th minute to release Jose Bosingwa that had the crowd on their feet (that the ball ended up being horribly over hit by the full-back will have come as little surprise to Chelsea followers).

And when Messi later ended up on his backside after scrambling for the ball with Bruno Alves, the mockery was long and loud.

But then, right on the final whistle, against all expectation of what had preceded it, Ricardo Quaresma woke up and provided a peach of a cross which Raphael Guerreiro - one of a dozen substitutes - headed deftly past Guzman in the Argentina net.

It may not have anserwed the question of the moment - who is the finest player in the world game - but it certainly excited the man from Portuguese radio. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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