All but three teams involved in Euro 2012 were in action this weekend as preparations for the tournament in Poland and Ukraine begin to take shape.
It would appear that England have the most work to do in order to make an impact at the summer tournament as their first game under new boss Roy Hodgson ended in an insipid 1-0 win for the Three Lions against Norway in Oslo.
Hodgson was handed the somewhat unenviable task a month ago of forming a team from that ashes of the Fabio Capello era, and it appears the former West Brom boss may be forced into damage limitation at the Euros after a victory that offered little indication that they could mix it with the best. Organised, yes, inspired, certainly not.
Ashley Young’s well-taken goal early on after some fine link up play with Andy Carroll raised hopes that England had forged something resembling team-spirit in the face of adversity, however as the remainder of the game meandered to a close with little incident the growing belief that the this summer may be a hiding to nothing for the Three Lions grew.
If England were struggling to pique the interest of the watching public then Germany, one of the favourites for the tournament, had little trouble in generating excitement, albeit in a losing cause, as they played out a 5-3 defeat against Switzerland on Saturday.
Joachim Low’s under-strength side fell behind to two quick goals from Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok inside the first 23 minutes, and while Mats Hummels reduced the deficit by one on the stroke of half-time Derdiyok re-established his side’s two goal advantage by completing his hat-trick on 50 minutes.
A flurry of goals followed in 13 second half minutes as first Andre Schurrle brought Germany back into the game, only for goals from Stephan Lichtseiner and Admir Mehmedi to help Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld inflicted defeat upon his home country.
Their Group B rivals fared little better, with Denmark losing out to Brazil on Saturday while Portugal struggled to a staid 0-0 draw with Macedonia in Leira.
Three first half goals for the Samba Boys including two from Porto striker Hulk and a Zimling own goal meant Nicklas Bendtner’s 71st minute effort was no more than a consolation.
Portugal meanwhile failed to break the deadlock against Montenegro despite having the lion’s share of possession in what ultimately proved to be a frustrating and 90 minutes for Paulo Bento’s side that revealed little about his side ahead of Euro 2012 other than they lack cutting edge.
Fellow tournament favourites Holland also faltered in their Euro 2012 warm up game against Bulgaria, with the 2010 World Cup finalists eventually succumbing to a 2-1 defeat in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Arsenal forward Robin van Persie had given the hosts the lead in the 43rd minutes, only for Ivelin Popov to equalise early on in the second half after Rafael van der Vaart had handled in the box.
The visitors secured their shock win in the 93rd minute as Iliyan Mitsanski headed home superbly past Newcastle shot-stopper Tim Krul.
Elsewhere Spain looked in fine shape as they cruised to a 2-0 win over Serbia thanks to second-half goals from Adrian Lopez and Santi Cazorla.
Vicente Del Bosque’s experimental line up secured the win in simple enough fashion despite a lacklustre first half-showing, with La Roja looking on course to retain the crown they won in 2008.
Spain’s Group C opponents the Republic of Ireland wrapped up a 1-0 win against Bosnia at the Aviva Stadium as Shane Long’s second half strike secured victory for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side.
Croatia, also in Group C secured a comfortable 3-1 victory over Estonia while Italy, the final members the oft-used ‘group of death’ are in action on Tuesday against Luxembourg.
England’s Group D rivals Sweden and Ukraine are also in action in the coming days against Iceland and Estonia respectively, meaning the only opportunity for Roy Hodgson’s spies to glean information about their Euro 2012 opponents came in the form of France’s 3-2 win over Iceland in Valenciennes on Sunday.
What they will have learned is that France’s excellence in attack is only matched by their ineptitude at the back with Iceland racing into a 2-0 lead after 34 minutes thanks to some cumbersome defensive work from Patrice Evra and Philippe Mexes.
Fortunately for Les Bleus their attacking might was enough to get them out of jail this time, with Mathieu Debuchy, Franck Ribery and Adil Rami finding the back of the net to save manager Laurent Blanc’s blushes.
Group A offers perhaps the least alluring set of fixtures at Euro 2012 and aside from Russia’s 1-1 draw with Uruguay, its competitors offered little in the way of interest in their warm-up fixtures.
Co-hosts Poland beat Slovakia 1-0 thanks to Damien Perquis’ thumping header, Greece played out a 1-1 draw with Slovenia and the Czech Republic beat Israel 2-1.
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