Jackson Irvine, Awer Mabil and Garang Kuol fired Australia to a 3-1 victory against Ecuador at the CommBank Stadium on Friday.

In their first game since the World Cup in Qatar, Australia's preparations for the Asian Cup got off to an ideal start.

First-half goals from Jackson and Mabil came either side of Felix Torres' equaliser in an action-packed opening period.

A much quieter second half saw few opportunities before 18-year-old Kuol scored his first senior international goal, ensuring there would be no late fightback from the South American side.

The hosts took the lead after 13 minutes, Mitchell Duke brilliantly volleying Craig Goodwin's free-kick back across the face of goal to Irvine, who converted into the empty net – though replays showed Duke should have been flagged for offside.

Ecuador responded quickly to the setback and, having seen Michael Estrada drag a glorious chance wide of the mark, levelled when Torres met Jeremy Sarmiento's cross and guided a header past Mathew Ryan.

Australia regained the lead in the 32nd minute, with Irvine dispossessing Piero Hincapie on the edge of the area and seeing the ball fall kindly for Mabil, who smashed a fierce strike into the top-right corner.

Manchester City's Alex Robertson made his debut in the second half, despite having yet to make a senior appearance for the Premier League side, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather in featuring for the Socceroos.

There were few opportunities in the second half, but Moises Ramirez clawed an effort from Kye Rowles off the line, with Goodwin's set-piece delivery again causing problems for the visitors.

Though Ecuador dominated possession for much of the latter exchanges, the South Americans were unable to create opportunities to test Ryan and the hosts held on to secure victory.

The win was secured in the 84th minute, with teenage substitute Kuol on hand to poke in Aziz Behich's driven cross.

Lionel Messi struck the 800th goal of his remarkable career and lifted the World Cup trophy one more time in Buenos Aires, telling all of Argentina to enjoy this footballing prosperity while it lasts.

His landmark strike came in a 2-0 friendly win against Panama on Thursday at El Monumental, as Argentina played their first game since triumphing at Qatar 2022.

They showed off their World Cup spoils after the final whistle, with Messi addressing the crowd and saying it was a moment he had dreamt of throughout his life.

Messi, who turns 36 in June, delivered another inspired performance for his country, hitting the crossbar with two free kicks before sending another into the top corner in the 89th minute.

That brought up the 800 for club and country and sealed Argentina's win, after Thiago Almada bagged the opener in the 78th minute. It was also Messi's 99th goal for Argentina.

With a microphone in his right hand, and his left placed on the trophy, Messi told the crowd: "I want to thank you for all the love we are receiving, not just for winning the World Cup but from before, when we won the Copa America.

"I always dreamed of this moment, being able to celebrate with you in this country. Let's enjoy it because we spent a long time to win it, and because you don't know how long it will take until we win it again. Let's enjoy the third star."

Paris Saint-Germain's former Barcelona star won the Golden Ball at the World Cup for his efforts in captaining Argentina to glory. That is the trophy awarded to the player of the tournament.

Argentina won the World Cup previously in 1978 and 1986, with a 36-year wait coming to an end when La Albiceleste beat France on penalties in the December 18 final, after a 3-3 draw.

Messi will almost certainly have retired from international duty by the time the next World Cup rolls around in 2026, marking the end of a storied era.

He was keen to spread the latest acclaim throughout the Argentina ranks.

"I know that today is our day, but I don't want to forget all those colleagues I had before, who also did everything possible to get this one, and unfortunately it didn't happen to us, we were very close," he said. "They also deserve respect and recognition.

"We were going to do everything we could for this. I always dreamed of this moment, being able to come to my country and lift the World Cup. It was shown that it is very difficult to achieve this, it depends on many things. Sometimes due to small details it gets away from you.”

A stunning attacking display from Lionel Messi highlighted a one-sided 2-0 home victory for Argentina in their friendly against Panama on Thursday.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar was nearly moved to tears as his side were serenaded by the raucous El Monumental crowd in the World Cup champions' return to Buenos Aires.

He gave his fans an inspired performance, striking the crossbar with two free kicks before sending another into the top corner to bring up 800 goals in his storied career.

He joined Thiago Almada on the scoresheet after the Atlanta United forward scrambled home one of Messi's crossbar rebounds earlier in the second half.

Argentina piled on the pressure right from the first whistle, and their early dominance was almost rewarded when Messi's free kick cannoned off the crossbar in the 17th minute.

Less than 10 minutes later Rodrigo De Paul played a gorgeous ball through to Alexis Mac Allister, but Panama goalkeeper Jose Guerra made himself big and smothered the first-time attempt on the edge of the six-yard box.

Guerra rose the occasion once again in the shadows of half-time, denying a rocket bound for the top corner from Enzo Fernandez's boot to keep his side level through 45 minutes despite trailing 10-1 in the shot count and controlling only 27 per cent of the possession.

The Argentinian onslaught continued in the second half, with a Messi corner kick five minutes after the restart forcing a scrambling save from Guerra as it threatened to curl under the crossbar.

Another Messi direct free kick drew another save from Guerra, and he was there once again to deny Angel Di Maria from the resulting corner in what was shaping up as a Man of the Match performance from the Panama shot-stopper.

But he was denied a clean sheet as the hosts' dominance eventually paid off in the 78th minute, when another Messi free kick hit the crossbar, but this time Almada was in the right spot to force home the rebound for his first goal in an Argentina shirt.

A fourth free kick proved to be the charm for Messi, curling it over the wall and under the bar in the 89th minute to put an exclamation point on a spectacular individual performance.

The first international window after a major tournament always offers the chance of a reset, with squads freshened up whether teams have failed or triumphed.

It gives coaches the opportunity to reassess as they build towards the next competition.

In Europe, qualifying for Euro 2024 begins, so there'll be a competitive edge to the majority of the fixtures.

It's an ideal time for newcomers to the squads to assert themselves. Here, Stats Perform looks at the players aiming to do just that.

 

ARGENTINA

Lionel Messi finally got his hands on the biggest trophy of them all last year, as he led Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar. Now, Lionel Scaloni will be looking to see what prospects he can bring into the squad as La Albiceleste aim to retain their Copa America title in 2024. Two friendlies against Panama and Curacao should give him the ideal chance to test out some newcomers.

Nehuen Perez is enjoying a fine season in Serie A with Udinese and will be looking to improve on his one Argentina appearance, while Manchester City youngster Maximo Perrone has received his first international call. Perrone joined City from Velez Sarsfield in January, having only made his professional debut last year.

BRAZIL

Like Argentina, Brazil have a friendly – just the one – on the cards this month, though it is against World Cup semi-finalists Morocco. That should prove a tough test for the first match of Ramon Menezes' interim tenure.

With Brazil still reeling from their quarter-final exit in Qatar, and key players such as Neymar and Richarlison injured, Menezes has named plenty of fresh faces in his squad.

Among them is Rony, who has already scored six goals for Palmeiras in 2023, following a haul of 23 last year. Joao Gomes, who joined Wolves in January and has already netted in the Premier League, will also be hoping to make an impression, as will Andrey Santos. The 18-year-old is back on loan at Vasco de Gama from Chelsea but now has a chance to win his first cap.

ENGLAND

There were no new call-ups in Gareth Southgate's squad for England's Euro 2024 qualifiers against Italy and Ukraine, but Ivan Toney was something of a surprise inclusion.

That's not due to Toney's form – only Erling Haaland (28) and Harry Kane (21) have scored more Premier League goals than the Brentford striker (16) this season – but because he is under investigation over an alleged breach of Football Association betting rules.

Toney was included in Southgate's final squad before the World Cup but did not make the cut for Qatar, and has not yet made a Three Lions appearance. Given his inclusion this time around, the 27-year-old, who has averaged a league goal every 140 minutes this season, will be hoping to make his mark.

 

FRANCE

Kylian Mbappe is the new France captain following Hugo Lloris' international retirement, which has left a spot to fill in goal. Milan's Mike Maignan is the natural successor though has struggled with injury this season. Meanwhile, Brice Samba received his first call-up as one of the three shot-stoppers.

Samba left Nottingham Forest to join Lens last year and the 28-year-old has impressed in Ligue 1. His 78.1 save percentage is the third-best in the division out of goalkeepers to have played at least five games, while according to Opta's expected goals on target conceded (xGOT) model, he has prevented 5.2 goals, the fourth-best total in France's top tier.

 

Khephren Thuram, son of 1998 World Cup winner Lilian Thuram and brother of France striker Marcus Thuram, is having a superb season at Nice and could look to force his way into Didier Deschamps plans for midfield, especially with the injury issues of N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba.

GERMANY

As hosts of next year's Euros, there'll be no competitive matches for Germany this month, though Hansi Flick's team will be looking to atone for their horror show in Qatar. Six uncapped players have been called up by Flick for friendlies against Peru and Belgium, including Milan defender Malick ThiawKevin Schade, on loan at Brentford from Freiburg, is another newcomer in the forward line.

Marius Wolf has earned his first international opportunity at the age of 27. He has only scored one goal and provided one assist in 24 games this season, so perhaps he won't be the player who goes on to propel Germany to glory in 2024.

ITALY

There's three new faces in Italy's squad, though Roberto Mancini has been lamenting what he sees as a lack of homegrown talent at his disposal. Italy, of course, won the delayed Euro 2020, only to then fail to qualify for the World Cup.

Of the three uncapped players in this selection, Mateo Retegui is certainly one to watch. The 23-year-old, Argentina-born striker holds dual citizenship and plays in the South American nation for Tigre.

Retegui has scored 29 goals since the start of last season. Wladimiro Falcone and Alessandro Buongiorno are the other players who could win their first caps.

NETHERLANDS

Ronald Koeman has given five uncapped players an opportunity to impress in the first squad of his second spell in charge and Sven Botman is undoubtedly the biggest name. The Newcastle United defender was a surprise exclusion from Louis van Gaal's World Cup squad, but the 23-year-old centre-back has been given the nod by Koeman.

Botman has helped Newcastle keep nine clean sheets in the Premier League, while he has made more blocks (15) than any of his defensive club-mates, though he will be hoping to avoid a mistake such as the one he made to gift Nottingham Forest a goal last week. 

Xavi Simons, meanwhile, will be looking to make an impact further forward. The 19-year-old has scored 13 goals and provided six assists in the Eredivisie this season.

 

SPAIN

Most of the players on this list are on the younger side, but new Spain coach Luis de la Fuente has handed a first call-up to 32-year-old Joselu.

The Espanyol forward, previously of Newcastle United and Stoke City, is one of LaLiga's leading scorers this season with 12 goals. Better late than never, perhaps?

Osasuna's David Garcia is another newcomer, while Real Betis striker Borja Iglesias – who like Joselu has netted 12 times in LaLiga – was called up in place of the injured Gerard Moreno on Sunday.

Ronald Araujo has withdrawn from the Uruguay squad for their two upcoming friendlies after suffering a thigh injury during Barcelona's win over Real Madrid on Sunday.

The defender was able to complete a dramatic 2-1 El Clasico victory for the Blaugrana at Camp Nou, but he will not face Japan on Friday or South Korea next Tuesday.

Barca revealed Araujo underwent tests on Monday and discovered he has done damage to his left adductor.

The 24-year-old scored an own goal to put Madrid in front, but Sergi Roberto equalised just before half-time and Franck Kessie's late winner put Xavi's side 12 points clear of their fierce rival at the top of LaLiga.

Uruguay will also be without attacking midfielder Giorgian de Arrascaeta.

Diego Hernandez and Sebastian Caceres have been called up as replacements by interim coach Marcelo Broli.

Hansi Flick has selected five debutants in his first Germany squad since the World Cup in Qatar, while excluding Leroy Sane and Antonio Rudiger.

Josha Vagnoman, Marius Wolf, Mergim Berisha, Kevin Schade and Felix Nmecha could all make their international debuts in the upcoming friendly matches against Peru and Belgium.

However, the new faces come alongside a number of notable absentees with Thomas Muller, Ilkay Gundogan, Niklas Sule and the injured goalkeeper Manuel Neuer not included, as well as Sane and Rudiger.

In total, only 15 of the 26 players who were part of the squad for last year's World Cup retain their spots.

"We want to put together a strong squad for Euro 2024 in Germany and it is also important to use the first international matches of the year to invite new players," Flick said about his selections.

"We are very happy that it [international football] is starting again. 

"[We want] to give them [the new players] space and the opportunity to show themselves.

"Every single training session on the way to the European Championship in your own country is enormously important in order to find the best team and to increase the anticipation of the tournament with inspiring performances."

Germany squad: Bernd Leno (Fulham), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona), Kevin Trapp (Eintracht Frankfurt); Armel Bella-Kotchap (Southampton), Matthias Ginter (Freiburg), Christian Gunter (Freiburg), Thilo Kehrer (West Ham), David Raum (RB Leipzig), Nico Schlotterbeck (Borussia Dortmund), Josha Vagnoman (Stuttgart), Marius Wolf (Borussia Dortmund); Mergim Berisha (Augsburg), Emre Can (Borussia Dortmund), Niclas Fullkrug (Werder Bremen), Serge Gnabry (Bayern Munich), Leon Goretzka (Bayern Munich), Mario Gotze (Eintracht Frankfurt), Kai Havertz (Chelsea), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Jamal Musiala (Bayern Munich), Felix Nmecha (Wolfsburg), Kevin Schade (Brentford), Timo Werner (RB Leipzig), Florian Wirtz (Bayer Leverkusen).

Son Heung-min has been backed to rediscover his best form by incoming South Korea coach Jurgen Klinsmann, who believes a difficult situation at Tottenham has hampered the attacker.

Son has endured a poor season with Spurs, scoring just five Premier League goals after sharing the Golden Boot with Mohamed Salah last term, and his troubles have carried onto the international stage.

The forward wore a protective mask at last year's World Cup after suffering a fractured eye socket ahead of the tournament, where he failed to net in four appearances.

Son produced another ineffective performance as Spurs exited the Champions League against Milan on Wednesday, leaving the future of boss Antonio Conte in serious doubt.

His new international coach, however, retains faith in Son's ability to bounce back, saying: "I'm a big fan of Sonny. There's no doubt. He had a very difficult World Cup because he was not 100 per cent healthy.

"Obviously I saw all the games and I felt for him, but I think this is a normal period and every player goes through little up and downs. Also, the situation at Tottenham is sometimes not so easy. 

"I hope that I'm going to see him in two weeks and he comes with a smile and is hungry for the national team."

Klinsmann was named as Paulo Bento's successor last month, with the Portuguese coach stepping down after a 4-1 defeat to Brazil in the last 16 at the World Cup.

Asked how he would approach the role at his unveiling on Thursday, the former Germany international said: "Obviously, my personal background was a striker, so I always love to attack, and that means I’d rather win a game 4-3 than 1-0. 

"But at the end of the day, I think a coach always has to adapt his approach and his philosophy to the people around him, mainly the players. 

"So based on who you have as players and what capabilities your team has, you need to adapt that philosophy to your approach."

South Korea will face South American opposition in their first two outings under Klinsmann, with Colombia and Uruguay their opponents for friendlies later this month.

Neymar, Gabriel Martinelli and Bruno Guimaraes are among the notable absentees from the 23-man Brazil squad for the friendly in Morocco later this month.

Neymar tied the Selecao all-time scoring record of the late Pele (77) with his goal against Croatia as Brazil were eliminated in the World Cup quarter-finals in December.

An ankle injury sustained in Paris Saint-Germain's recent win against Lille will keep him from beating that record in Morocco though.

With head coach Tite stepping down after that defeat in Qatar, interim Brazil boss Ramon Menezes will take charge of the friendly and has selected nine new faces, including Chelsea's Andrey Santos – back on loan at Vasco da Gama – Wolves midfielder Joao Gomes and Athletico Paranaense striker Vitor Roque.

United duo Casemiro and Antony are joined by other Premier League players Ederson, Emerson Royal, Renan Lodi, Lucas Paqueta and Richarlison in the squad, though there is no place for Liverpool trio Alisson, Fabinho or Roberto Firmino.

Brazil take on World Cup semi-finalists Morocco on March 25 at Ibn Batouta Stadium in Tangier.

Brazil squad to face Morocco: Ederson (Manchester City), Mycael (Athletico Paranaense), Weverton (Palmeiras); Arthur (America MG), Emerson Royal (Tottenham), Alex Telles (Sevilla), Renan Lodi (Nottingham Forest), Roger Ibanez (Roma), Marquinhos (Paris Saint-Germain), Eder Militao (Real Madrid), Robert Renan (Zenit); Andre (Fluminense), Andrey Santos (Vasco da Gama), Casemiro (Manchester United), Joao Gomes (Wolves), Lucas Paqueta (West Ham), Raphael Veiga (Palmeiras); Antony (Manchester United), Richarlison (Tottenham), Rodrygo (Real Madrid), Rony (Palmeiras), Vinicius Junior (Real Madrid), Vitor Roque (Athletico Paranaense).

Manchester United teenager Alejandro Garnacho is set to win his first cap for Argentina as the world champions named their squad for their first matches since the Qatar success.

Lionel Scaloni's men beat France 4-2 on penalties after a thrilling 3-3 draw in the World Cup final in December as Lionel Messi won international football's premier tournament for the first time in his decorated career.

The Paris Saint-Germain star is set to add to his 172 appearances for Argentina after he was named in Scaloni's squad for the friendlies with Panama and Curacao later this month.

But a fellow forward looks likely to play for La Albiceleste for the first time, with Garnacho's excellent form since breaking into the United squad this season earning him a maiden call-up.

The 18-year-old has registered eight goal involvements in 27 appearances in all competitions for the Red Devils this term, becoming an important part of their squad as they enjoy a successful first season under Erik ten Hag.

Angel Di Maria is named in the 35-man squad after scoring Argentina's second in the World Cup final, while shoot-out hero Emiliano Martinez also features.

Martinez's Aston Villa team-mate Emiliano Buendia is included while Enzo Fernandez, who joined Chelsea from Benfica in the January window for a British-record £106.8million (€120.6m), retains his place.

Argentina squad: Franco Armani (River Plate), Geronimo Rulli (Ajax), Emiliano Martinez (Aston Villa); Juan Foyth (Villarreal), Gonzalo Montiel (Sevilla), Nahuel Molina (Atletico Madrid), Nehuen Perez (Udinese), German Pezzella (Real Betis), Cristian Romero (Tottenham), Nicolas Otamendi (Benfica), Lisandro Martinez (Manchester United), Nicolas Tagliafico (Lyon), Marcos Acuna (Sevilla), Lautaro Blanco (Elche); Leandro Paredes (Juventus), Guido Rodriguez (Real Betis), Enzo Fernandez (Chelsea), Maximo Perrone (Manchester City), Exequiel Palacios (Bayer Leverkusen), Rodrigo De Paul (Atletico Madrid), Facundo Buonanotte (Brighton and Hove Albion), Thiago Almada (Atlanta United), Giovani Lo Celso (Villarreal), Alexis Mac Allister (Brighton and Hove Albion), Valentin Carboni (Inter); Angel Di Maria (Juventus), Angel Correa (Atletico Madrid), Emiliano Buendia (Aston Villa), Lionel Messi (Paris Saint-Germain), Paulo Dybala (Roma), Lautaro Martinez (Inter), Julian Alvarez (Manchester City), Alejandro Garnacho (Manchester United), Nicolas Gonzalez (Fiorentina), Alejandro Gomez (Sevilla).

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini has conceded that his 3-4-3 formation did not work as intended against Austria, as he criticised his side's poor first half display against the hosts.

The European champions finished 2022 with defeat in Vienna, where two first half goals from Xaver Schlager and David Alaba put the hosts in control.

A poor showing in the first period was improved upon after the break, but Italy could not break Austria's defence, though Mancini believes his side did enough to deserve praise.

"We were better in the second half, in the first half we had the ball and we had to score. After that we suffered, making so many technical mistakes. In the second half, all we were missing was a goal," he said post-match.

"The formation didn't go very well, we did little pressing with the strikers conceding too many spaces.

"The team was too long, we did badly and this penalised us a bit, but in the second half I saw a very good team. We were unlucky and a bit inaccurate."

Italy are not scheduled to be back in action until March, where the defence of their European crown begins with the first qualifying match against England in a rematch of the 2020 final.

David Alaba scored a stunning free-kick as Austria swept past Italy in comfortable fashion with a 2-0 friendly victory on Sunday.

On the day the World Cup started in Qatar, two nations who failed to qualify for the tournament locked horns at Ernst-Happel-Stadion.

Austria came out the blocks flying and Xaver Schlager gave them an early lead before Alaba fired home a fierce free-kick to double the advantage before the break.

Roberto Mancini made numerous changes at the break, but it did not change the European champions' fortunes as they were beaten in Viennna.

The hosts took the lead after just six minutes, Schlager winning possession from Marco Verratti and exchanging passes with Marko Arnautovic before smashing a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma.

Austria continued to apply the pressure, Nicolas Seiwald and Junior Adamu firing efforts off target, the latter then striking the post after Francesco Acerbi failed to clear the ball away.

Ten minutes before the interval, Austria's assault on the Italy goal paid off again when Alaba thundered an unstoppable free-kick from 20 yards in off the crossbar.

The second half began in the same fashion as the first, Marcel Sabitzer forcing two fine saves from Donnarumma, while Italy offered little until Giacomo Raspadori tested Heinz Lindner from close range.

Italy continued to dominate possession but could not pose enough of a threat in the final third, as Ralf Rangnick's side saw out another victory.

Joao Felix backed Portugal to go all the way at the World Cup after Fernando Santos welcomed a selection headache following a 4-0 friendly thrashing of Nigeria.

Bruno Fernandes' first-half double, coupled with late strikes for Goncalo Ramos and Joao Mario, saw Santos' side to a comfortable triumph on Thursday before setting off for Qatar.

Atletico Madrid attacker Joao Felix did not manage to get on the scoresheet but impressed in Lisbon, with Santos noting a credible performance from the 23-year-old.

"He was one of the best, with some others. They were all better, nobody plays alone," the Portugal coach said.

"Joao played a good game too, at the level of what the others did. I have 26 players knocking on the door. Every day they knock on my door in training.

"They all knock on the door and they all have reasons to play. That's certainly good for the coach."

Joao Felix suggested he enjoys more attacking freedom for Portugal than Atletico Madrid, as he backed Santos' side for glory in Qatar, where they face Ghana in their Group H opener next Thursday.

"I have more freedom of movement with the national team because we are very mobile," he said. "I felt good and the team had a great game.

"I think we are prepared to win the World Cup. We looked for the goal and I helped the team, which is my mission as a striker. 

"The goals did not appear in this game, but they will happen in the World Cup."

Santos will also have to consider the return of Cristiano Ronaldo, who missed the friendly victory due to "illness" as the aftermath of his scathing interview on Manchester United continues.

Bruno Fernandes scored twice as Portugal eased to a 4-0 victory over Nigeria in their sole World Cup warm-up game, despite missing captain Cristiano Ronaldo through illness.

Fernando Santos' side produced a dominant showing in Lisbon on Thursday amid the ongoing furore over the absent Ronaldo's scathing interview on Manchester United.

Fernandes' first-half double, the latter from the penalty spot, set Portugal on their way in their final outing ahead of Qatar, before Goncalo Ramos scored after Emmanuel Dennis missed a second-half spot-kick.

Joao Mario added a late fourth and Portugal will now turn their attention to next Thursday's Group H opener against Ghana as they aim to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in four tournaments.

Fernandes miscued an effort just wide in the opening stages but made amends after nine minutes as he turned home Diogo Dalot's cutback pass.

Joao Felix curled narrowly over before Bright Osayi-Samuel was adjudged to have handled inside the area, with Fernandes sending Francis Uzoho the wrong way with his spot-kick.

A host of half-time changes did little to alter Portugal's dominance, though Samuel Chukwueze forced a rare Rui Patricio save before Uzoho tipped over from Joao Felix.

The VAR deemed Dalot to have shoved Osayi-Samuel inside the area, though Patricio saved Dennis' penalty before Ramos sealed victory by tapping in Raphael Guerreiro's unselfish pass.

A simple Joao Felix offload teed up the final goal as Joao Mario prodded into an empty net.

What does it mean? Santos' side in cruise control ahead of Qatar

The ongoing controversy surrounding five-time Ballon d'Or winner Ronaldo could have easily derailed Portugal, though that did not prove the case in a routine win.

Santos' side dominated from the first minute without their talisman and will be confident of escaping Group H, which also includes Uruguay and South Korea.

However, the likes of Ghana and Uruguay – the latter with the likes of Federico Valverde, Ronald Araujo and Darwin Nunez – will prove much sterner tasks than Nigeria in Qatar.

Fernandes refutes Ronaldo deputy tag

All the talk in the build-up to the friendly surrounded Fernandes' United team-mate Ronaldo, though it was the midfielder who shone at Estadio Jose Alvalade.

Fernandes has regularly played the backing role to Ronaldo at Old Trafford and Portugal, but offered a timely reminder of his qualities with two goals as well as misplacing just three of his 37 passes.

More from Miffi

While Portugal impressed without their star attacker, Nigeria were left wanting in their forward line as Terem Moffi failed to deliver.

The 23-year-old completed just six of his 11 passes and managed 15 touches – the fewest of any outfield starter – before his second-half removal.

What's next?

Portugal's curtain-raiser comes against Ghana in Doha, while Nigeria are not scheduled for action until facing Guinea-Bissau in Africa Cup of Nations qualification in March.

Roberto Mancini was full of praise for Vincenzo Grifo after he played a part in all three goals as Italy came from behind to beat Albania 3-1 in Wednesday's friendly.

A crashing Ardian Ismajli header put Albania ahead in the first half, but a pinpoint Grifo cross allowed Giovanni Di Lorenzo to equalise just four minutes later before the Freiburg man put Italy in front before the break.

Grifo added his second after half-time to kill off the match and secure a third straight win for the European champions since a 5-2 humbling at the hands of Germany in June.

Mancini was delighted with the 29-year-old's impressive performance, telling Rai Sport: "Vincenzo is an extraordinary boy. Grifo is a great player and in the Bundesliga, he is scoring many goals.

"[He is] a very good player, with important qualities. Today he scored two beautiful goals. The whole attack went well.

"You have to play in the best way whatever the moment. We have done good things by also changing the system, that went well."

It was not all good news for Italy as midfielder Sandro Tonali was taken off on a stretcher after an awkward fall in the latter stages of the first half.

But Mancini was positive after the match over Tonali's condition, saying: "He took quite a hit, but he was conscious and I hope to get him back soon."

A Vincenzo Grifo double and a Giovanni Di Lorenzo strike gave Italy a 3-1 comeback friendly victory over Albania in Tirana on Wednesday.

Roberto Mancini's men will not be at the World Cup in Qatar after a play-off defeat to North Macedonia, and they looked on course for another embarrassing loss here as Ardian Ismajli nodded Albania in front.

But Italy hit back almost immediately through Di Lorenzo, before Grifo added goals either side of half-time to secure victory.

It is now three straight wins for the European champions since their humiliating 5-2 thrashing at the hands of Germany in June, as they look to bounce back from their World Cup disappointment.

Italy started brightly, but they fell behind when Ismajli rose highest to meet Nedim Bajrami's free-kick, sending a sublime header crashing into the top right corner.

Albania's lead lasted just four minutes, as Grifo's pinpoint cross picked out Di Lorenzo in the middle to side-foot home.

Creator turned finisher for Italy's second, Giacomo Raspadori squaring for Grifo before the Freiburg man smashed superbly past Etrit Berisha to make it 2-1.

Nicolo Zaniolo hit the base of the post in first-half injury time as Italy looked to build their lead, though Albania clung on to get into the break just a goal behind.

Marash Kumbulla's header shortly after the interval tested Alex Meret, while Grifo nearly scored his second when he lashed the underside of the crossbar.

Albania then hit the woodwork twice themselves, Myrto Uzuni's looping effort beating Meret but not the upper frame of the goal before Bajrami saw a shot deflected onto the bar.

Grifo made it 3-1 after 64 minutes, controlling a cross and dispatching into the far corner to round off the scoring and cap his sensational display.

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