Manchester: Argentina may have lost 1-0 to Portugal on Tuesday but a nine-day trip to England that ended with a fine performance at Old Trafford has given coach Gerardo Martino hope for the future.
Argentina dominated Portugal, especially in the first half when Lionel Messi faced Cristiano Ronaldo for the 27th time in the big individual soccer rivalry of the age before they both bowed out at halftime.
"Apart from the defeat which is to be regretted, we held supremacy over our rivals in all aspects of the game and were only beaten in the final result," Martino told reporters at Old Trafford.
"Over both halves we ran the game, had a lot of possession, created the most chances and I think we were only under threat on two occasions."
Argentina showed what Martino is looking for from his team, a quick-passing possession game with fast thrusts forward which reflected in their performances in England after they beat Croatia 2-1 in London six days ago.
Beto was by far the busier goalkeeper but Portugal snatched the victory with substitute Raphael Guerreiro`s added time header.
The match, billed as a Messi-Ronaldo clash in the mould of great rivalries in individual sports like Palmer-Nicklaus, Ali-Frazier and now Djokovic-Federer, lost most of its allure when the pair did not emerge for the second half.
"I don`t know why Ronaldo (only played the first half) but we had planned with Lionel after he played the whole match against Croatia that he should only take part in the opening 45 minutes," Martino said.
A determined Portugal can also take heart from a solid defensive game against one of the world`s best attacks as they look to qualify for Euro 2016.
"When you play a game like that and win, it is very good," said winger Nani, on loan at Sporting from Manchester United.
Argentina`s Angel Di Maria suffered a foot injury in a first half tackle by Nani but played for an hour and Martino said it was not considered serious.
"We are having a look at some x-rays that were taken, but we don`t think that it is too serious," he added.