Last night’s international friendlies gave some of Europe’s top teams a chance to test their metal heading into this summer’s major championship in Poland and Ukraine.
With Spain looking to keep hold of their crown, they will start the tournament as favourites, and took another warm-up step with victory over Venezuela.
David Villa’s broken leg and Fernando Torres’ lack of form have been cited as the major stumbling block on the road to a repeat victory, but Roberto Soldado isn’t a bad replacement for the pair, and the Valencia hitman struck a hat-trick in their 5-0 win.
Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta and Manchester City playmaker David Silva had opened the scoring for Vicente Del Bosque’s side, and the signs look good going into another tournament after their World Cup win in 2010.
Germany have been picked by many as the side who can challenge Spain’s dominance in international football, but they fell to defeat against a young French side that are starting to make waves on the international stage.
The highly-rated Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for Les Bleus, with the Montpellier striker continuing his fine Ligue 1 form. Chelsea winger Florent Malouda made it two, before Cacau struck in injury time to put some respect to the scoreline in Bremen.
Laurent Blanc’s side boast a host of top players, with Yann M’Vila, Mathieu Valbuena and Jeremy Menez all suggesting the future is very bright. This summer’s tournament might just arrive at the perfect time for the French.
The Netherlands also showed their credentials against Wembley, striking twice in as many second-half minutes through Arjen Robben and Klaas Jan-Huntelaar. Gary Cahill and Ashley Young appeared to have salvaged a draw late, but Robben struck again in injury-time to give Bert Van Marwijk’s team the win.
After naming a strong starting line-up though, the Dutch would have been hoping for more in the first-half particularly against an experimental England side named by temporary manager Stuart Pearce.
In the absence of several regulars, the Three Lions also struggled to make in-roads in the opening period, and whilst there were a few positives from the game, outsiders is the realistic tag this summer.
Italy struggled to make any impression against the USA, with Clint Dempsey’s goal the difference between the two sides in Genoa.
The Azzurri are renowned for peaking at the right time for major tournaments, but Cesare Prandelli’s side will need to make big improvements to make any sort of impact.
Portugal continued their stuttering form with a 0-0 draw in Poland, and despite Cristiano Ronaldo’s fantastic goalscoring record for club and country; they stand little chance of lifting the trophy because of their inconsistency.
Co-hosts Ukraine went one better with victory in Israel, and home support could be key to them making a run in the competition, as was the case with South Korea in the 2002 World Cup.
The Republic of Ireland and Czech Republic shared the spoils in their warm-up match, with Simon Cox’s equaliser cancelling out Milan Baros’ opener. The quarter-finals at best for both sides.
Greece played out a 1-1 draw against a highly-rated Belgian side who missed out on qualification for Euro 2012, whilst Sweden beat Croatia away from home, suggesting England will have their hands full in qualifying Group D.
And Russia struck twice to sink Denmark 2-0, with Andrey Arshavin netting for a side hoping to make a major impact close to home in June.
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