By Jerome Pugmire, AP Sports Writer
MARSEILLE, France — Lionel Messi scored a brilliant solo goal Wednesday to cap Argentina’s 2-0 win over France and give Diego Maradona a second straight win as national team coach.
Messi was quiet until the 83rd minute, when the Barcelona striker collected the ball outside the penalty area, got through the French defense and beat goalkeeper Steve Mandanda inside his right post.
Jonas Gutierrez scored the opener in the 41st when he beat Mandanda with a low shot inside the left post. The Marseille goalkeeper left a gap and reacted too slowly to the Newcastle player’s shot.
Maradona’s coaching debut in November saw a tenacious 1-0 win at Scotland, and again his team showed it has grit as well as flair by neutralizing France’s forwards.
Maradona spent most of the second half pacing around his technical zone, either with his arms folded or jabbing his finger to point out instructions to his team — but France gave him little reason to fret.
< After Messi’s goal, the French crowd at Marseille’s Stade Velodrome called for coach Raymond Domenech to resign.
Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka missed France’s best chance in the 30th, latching onto Yoann Gourcuff’s pass and sprinting through only for goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo to rush off his line quickly and block his shot.
The early exchanges had gone France’s way, with Franck Ribery probing around the Argentina defense, allowing Thierry Henry space to try his luck with a speculative long shot that flew over.
Carrizo pounced low to his left to keep out Ribery’s shot and Gourcuff collapsed under a challenge from Emiliano Papa, but Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson waved away claims for a penalty.
France changed tactics in the second half, looking to test Argentina from the flanks by pushing fullbacks Eric Abidal and Bakary Sagna further up.
The ploy almost worked in the 63rd when Sagna found space to glide into the penalty area and pulled the ball back, but Anelka let it run through his legs and Henry only just failed to get a shot on goal.
But after that Domenech’s team looked short on ideas, peppering the Argentina penalty area with high crosses that were easily dealt with.
France: Steve Mandanda, Bakary Sagna, William Gallas, Philippe Mexes, Eric Abidal, Jeremy Toulalan, Lassana Diarra, Franck Ribery, Yoann Gourcuff, Nicolas Anelka (Karim Benzema, 65), Thierry Henry.
Argentina: Juan Pablo Carrizo, Martin Demichelis, Jonas Gutierrez, Gabriel Heinze, Javier Zanetti, Emiliano Papa, Fernando Gago, Javier Mascherano, Maxi Rodriguez (Marcos Angeleri, 82), Sergio Aguero (Carlos Tevez, 82), Lionel Messi.