A round up of midweek international friendlies
International football returned right around the world just a month after the World Cup final and as always there was plenty to cheer for the fans because of the football on offer.
The midweek fixtures proved to be a test for future hurdles and for some international sides, this particular fixture meant a lot than many previous competitive games. Teams like France, England, Argentina, Italy and Brazil looked for redemption after a disappointing outing in South Africa.
The French, under new coach Laurent Blanc, launched another revolution of sorts by dismissing all 23-world cup players and putting together a relatively inexperienced side that took on Norway at Oslo on Wednesday. There were encouraging signs at the Ulleval Stadium for the away side as the Les Bleus took the lead just after half time when substitute Hatem Ben Arfa unleashed an unstoppable 25-metre shot.
Yet, France’s inexperience started to tell as the Norwegians raced back into the game courtesy of a brace from Erik Huseklepp, after some mistakes from debutant keeper Stephane Ruffier and the defensive line up altogether. A 2-1 loss on Blanc’s debut game is hardly the result the French wanted but atleast the team stood together throughout the match and if the first half performance were to be taken into account, the away side enjoyed all the possession and a little experience upfront could have altered the result. Laurent Blanc has plenty to think about whether to bring in some of the suspended players back to the team before the real business starts next month ahead of the EURO 2012 qualifiers.
England, heavily criticized by the home media after the disastrous campaign in South Africa, responded soundly with a come from behind win against a well organized Hungarian side at Wembley. Boos were expected for Fabio Capello and his boys but the passionate capacity crowd was determined to back a young team that played in an adventurous style. Yet it was the away side that took the lead thanks to a dubious Phil Jagielka own-goal but a dominating England rallied to win after two superb individual strikes from skipper Steven Gerrard. Adam Johnson, Theo Walcott, Bobby Zamora, Kieran Gibbs, Ashley Young and of course keeper Joe Hart impressed a packed Wembley. Hart was particularly impressive as he was alert all night and denied Zoltan Gera a late equaliser with his alertness.
Argentina, under caretaker manager Sergio Batista, ruined Irish party at Dublin’s brand new Aviva stadium via a controversial Angel Di Maria goal in the twentieth minute. Real Madrid’s new 20 million pound man seemed to be in an offside position when Sergio Romero’s massive goal kick was flicked on to his path. Yet the goal stood despite Shay Given’s loud protests and the South Americans seized the initiative for the rest of the match and Robbie Keane’s 100th cap turned out to be a failure for the Republic of Ireland who were managed on the night by Marco Tardelli as manager Giovanni Trapattoni remained in hospital due to food poisoning.
A last minute equaliser from Manchester City new boy David Silva broke Mexican hearts at the intimidating Azteca Stadium in Mexico City and saved world champions Spain the blushes amidst the host country’s bicentennial independence celebrations. Mexico took the lead through Manchester United’s Javier Hernandez.
Hernandez, nicknamed ‘The Little pea’ continued his impressive goal-scoring form, after a stunning pre-season with the Red Devils, by taking his chance when put through on twelve minutes. Spanish captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas rushed out to narrow the angle, but Hernandez shot early, pushing the ball home from outside the penalty area.
With 92 minutes on the clock Barcelona stalwart Xavi latched on to a loose ball, played a delightful pass to Silva and the former Valencia man applied the finish with composure.
Denmark scored a late equaliser to draw 2-2 with World Cup semi-finalists Germany at Parken in Copenhagen. Joachim Lowe’s young side looked a classy unit but were pegged back by some slack defending at the end of the match that allowed a fighting Danish side to rally from a two goal deficit. Mario Gomez opened the scoring for the National Mannschaft with Patrick Helmes scoring the second but Dennis Rommedahl started the comeback with a trademark goal cutting in from the right in the 74th minute and substitute Mads Junker levelled in the 86th minute when Germany goalkeeper Tim Wiese came racing out of his goal.
Wales 5-1 Luxembourg
Sweden 3-0 Scotland
Ivory Coast 1-0 Italy
USA 0-2 Brazil
Slovenia 2-0 Australia
Serbia 0-1 Greece
Montenegro 2-0 Northern Ireland
Austria 0-1 Switzerland
Ukraine 1-1 Holland
Slovakia 1-1 Croatia
Poland 0-3 Cameroon
Turkey 2-0 Romania