zondag 3 juni 2012

Friendlies Report

Netherlands 6-0 Northern Ireland
Three up inside 29 minutes, Bert van Marwijk's team never looked back and went on to secure an emphatic victory in their final warm-up game.

Netherlands slot six past Northern Ireland
Robin van Persie scored twice in the 6-0 triumph

The Netherlands sent out a warning to their UEFA EURO 2012 rivals by easing to a 6-0 victory against Northern Ireland at the Amsterdam ArenA.

As expected, Robin van Persie led the line, while Jetro Willems, who could become the youngest player to take to the field at a UEFA European Championship, was handed a starting berth. The writing was firmly on the wall when Van Persie scored either side of Wesley Sneijder's solo effort. An Ibrahim Afellay double made it 5-0 to the hosts, before Ron Vlaar completed the win.

The Netherlands turned back the clock and treated the 50,000 spectators to a masterclass in 'total football'. Van Persie opened the scoring with a powerful header, while Sneijder showed no signs of his midweek knock when he curled in a sumptuous second. The Arsenal FC forward soon made it three from the penalty spot to notch his 28th Oranje goal in 65 matches.

The game was put beyond doubt eight minutes before the break when Afellay produced a smart finish to complete a sweeping team move. Not content with four, the Netherlands stretched their advantage after the restart, Afellay benefiting from a neat pass from Van Persie and finishing with aplomb. Deputising for Joris Mathijsen, Vlaar then scored his first international goal with a trademark header to round off the scoring.

The Netherlands will now focus on their UEFA EURO 2012 opener against Denmark on 9 June, with their coach Bert van Marwijk remaining defiantly cautious. "We played against pretty average opponents," he said. "Nevertheless, our performances keep improving. The win does not mean that much to me. Our play was faster, but sometimes we were not precise enough. Still, I saw some nice attacks and good goals. We could even have scored a few more. We go to the EURO with confidence but we are not the finished article."

England 1-0 Belgium 
Danny Welbeck's solitary strike ensured Roy Hodgson's side concluded their UEFA EURO 2012 preperations with a win.

Welbeck secures England victory against Belgium
Danny Welbeck's delicate chip secured a hard-fought victory

Roy Hodgson experienced his first Wembley victory as England overcame Belgium 1-0 in their final game before UEFA EURO 2012.

Nine days ahead of their Group D opener against France in Donetsk, Roy Hodgson named a strong lineup. Scott Parker returned to fortify England's injury-ravaged midfield, while Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain added impetus to the attack on his first senior start. Another livewire, Danny Welbeck, proved the match-winner with a deft first-half finish.

Boasting composure beyond his years, Arsenal FC teenager Oxlade-Chamberlain almost made an immediate impact but skewed wide following James Milner's cutback. His exuberant aura came to the fore seven minutes later as well, following neat work from Welbeck, although his fierce strike lacked direction.

The values Hodgson is endeavouring to instil among his players were evident as the hosts maintained a staunch defensive shape. That threatened to be broken, however, when some probing passing resulted in an opening for Axel Witsel, but the midfielder blazed over from 25 metres.

Just as the carnival atmosphere inside Wembley threatened to diminish, England broke free from the shackles of paralysis and took the lead. Welbeck hectored and harried Belgium into submission and, after retrieving possession, latched on to Ashley Young's incisive pass, before delicately lifting the ball over Simon Mignolet.

The early stages of the second half bore a striking resemblance to the first as Belgium refused to abandon their patient approach and England remained resolute in defence. Eden Hazard forced Joe Hart into action with a curling effort, before Marouane Fellaini turned inside the area and sent a low shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Despite the introduction of Wayne Rooney, Belgium continued to press and were almost rewarded for their ambition when Guillaume Gillet ventured forward from his right-back position and struck a firm effort against a post. Jermain Defoe followed suit at the other end moments later, and England held out for a morale-boosting win.

Norway 1-1 Croatia
Eduardo put Slaven Bilić's men ahead in Oslo, but they were denied victory when Tarik Elyounoussi headed in from a corner in added time.

Last-gasp leveller leaves Croatia flat in Oslo
Eduardo is mobbed by his team-mates after scoring for Croatia

Tarik Elyounoussi scored a last-gasp equaliser to secure a 1-1 draw for Norway against UEFA EURO 2012 hopefuls Croatia in the visitors' last friendly before travelling to the finals.

Eduardo seemed to have earned Slaven Bilić's men a morale-boosting win when he headed in with just ten minutes to go, but there was a sting in the tail for Croatia as Norway restored parity in added time. Bilić will now be hoping for better against the Republic of Ireland next Sunday.

Indeed, Croatia struggled for most of the game, with Luka Modrić left out after missing training due to concerns about his fitness. Vedran Ćorluka was also rested as he reported feeling back pain a few days ago, while Ivan Rakitić covered for Modrić in midfield and Ivan Perišić operated on the left wing.

Bilić's rejigged lineup had trouble breaking through Norway's defences and they created precious few chances to score. Meanwhile, Croatia's rearguard was given a torrid time by the home side and it was down to goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa that the scoreline remained level at the break.

Norway also threatened through Erik Huseklepp after 56 minutes, the midfielder having been fed the ball from the right. One on one with Pletikosa, he nonetheless sent his effort over the crossbar.

If that was good news for Croatia, bad news soon followed as Ivica Olić asked to be substituted with 71 minutes gone as a precautionary measure due to a muscle strain. Ivo Iličević came on in his place and the visitors went ahead shortly afterwards, Eduardo heading in a cross from his FC Shakhtar Donetsk team-mate Darijo Srna. Norway had the final word, though, with Elyounoussi nodding in from a corner.

Poland 4-0 Andorra 
The UEFA EURO 2012 co-costs ended their preparations for next week's finals with a commanding victory in Warsaw.

Poland see of Andorra in emphatic style
Robert Lewandowski gives Poland a 2-0 lead

Co-hosts Poland secured a morale-boosting 4-0 win against Andorra in their final friendly match before UEFA EURO 2012.

Franciszek Smuda's side were three up at half-time through goals from Ludovic Obraniak, Robert Lewandowski and a Jakub Błaszczykowski penalty. A late second-half spot-kick from Marcin Wasilewski rounded off a convincing performance – and a national-record fifth consecutive clean sheet – before their opening Group A fixture against Greece on Friday.

Backed by a capacity 30,000-strong crowd at the home of Legia Warszawa, the hosts dictated the tempo from the first whistle and their patient build-up play was rewarded in the 13th minute. Rafał Murawski fed Maciej Rybus on the left and his cutback was drilled in by Obraniak from close range. Poland then pushed for a second and Lewandowski should have done better six minutes later when he headed over from a Łukasz Piszczek cross.

A defensive error then presented the Borussia Dortmund striker with another opportunity, but, with the goal at his mercy, Lewandowski unselfishly squared the ball to Obraniak and his tame effort was smothered by goalkeeper José Gómes. However, it was a case of third time lucky for Lewandowski in the 37th minute when he chested down another cross from Piszczek before volleying into the roof of the net.

From the restart, Poland went back up the park and added a third when Błaszczykowski was brought down by Ildefons Lima in the box. The captain dusted himself down before calmly stroking the resulting penalty past Gómes.

With one eye on Friday's game, Smuda rang the changes after the interval, and Rafał Wolski and Adrian Mierzejewski proved the liveliest of the newcomers. Another substitute, Artur Sobiech, earned a second spot-kick 14 minutes from time, and Wasilewski stepped up to send the fans home dreaming of UEFA EURO 2012 success.

Portugal 1-3 Turkey
Umut Bulut struck twice as the visitors inflicted a surprise defeat on Paulo Bento's men, who have yet to record a victory in 2012.

Portugal's woes continue with Turkey defeat 
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty as Portugal suffered another defeat

Portugal suffered another setback in their preparations for UEFA EURO 2012 and will travel to the tournament without a win this year after losing 3-1 at home against Turkey.

Having previously recorded goalless draws with Poland and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 2012, Portugal were undone in the second half as Umut Bulut scored twice. Nani restored a little hope for the hosts by halving the deficit and Cristiano Ronaldo missed the chance to level from the spot before Pepe's late own goal sealed the result.

Miguel Lopes and Custódio earned their first caps for Paulo Bento's side, who were backed by a 65,000-strong crowd at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica in Lisbon. Bento made six changes to the team that was held by FYROM, with Lopes starting at right-back and Hugo Almeida replacing fellow forward Hélder Postiga, and it was Almeida who enjoyed the first chance of the evening when he headed wide from a Ronaldo cross in the first minute.

Portugal were making a bright start and Volkan Demirel then did well to keep out a Ronaldo free-kick, before his counterpart Rui Patrício denied a good chance for Burak Yılmaz. The tempo dropped thereafter until the fans were roused into voice when Almeida headed against the crossbar on the half-hour, Pepe having diverted a João Moutinho corner into his path.

Turkey responded quickly, however, with Hamit Altıntop striking a post from a free-kick before Bulut took advantage of too much space at the back to score moments later. Latching on to a cross from the left, he got ahead of Fábio Coentrão and slid in from close range.

Demirel denied Ronaldo as the hosts looked to level and Turkey increased their lead seven minutes after the break when a mistake from Miguel Veloso allowed Bulut to fire in a powerful shot. Nani brought his team back into the match with a fine low effort inside the far post from the right, yet they missed their chance to equalise when Demirel saved Ronaldo's spot kick, Emre Belözoğlu having fouled Lopes.

Substitute Ricardo Costa also threatened to level the scores only for Demirel to impress again and, despite serious pressure from Portugal in the last few minutes, it was the visitors who next found the net - Costa's attempted clearance hitting Pepe and crossing the goal line. Bento and his charges will hope for a different outcome when they start their Group B campaign against Germany on 9 June.

Denmark 2-0 Australia
Daniel Agger notched a first-half penalty and Andreas Bjelland doubled the hosts' tally in a game that featured a number of chances for the visitors.

Denmark end preparations with Australia win
Daniel Agger is congratulated by team-mates after his goal against Australia

Denmark secured a deserved 2-0 friendly win against Australia in Copenhagen but will be keen to improve in a number of areas if they are to mount a prolonged campaign in Poland and Ukraine.

Daniel Agger put the hosts ahead from the penalty spot following excellent work from Christian Erikssen just after the half-hour and centre-back Andreas Bjelland doubled their tally midway through the second period. The win proved a welcome result following the 3-1 loss to Brazil last time out, but coach Morten Olsen will be concerned about the number of chances Australia were able to create.

One week before Denmark's opening match at UEFA EURO 2012, Olsen fielded a starting lineup that is likely to be close to the team he will choose to face the Netherlands in Kharkiv next Saturday. Stephan Andersen appears favourite to wear gloves following Thomas Sørensen's withdrawal through injury, and he staked his claim with some good saves – though it was Denmark who started brightest as both Dennis Rommedahl and Nicklas Bendtner went close early on.

Alex Brosque fired wide as Australia began to look dangerous on the counterattack, and there was relief from the home fans when Agger converted from the spot, having been brought down by Matthew Spiranovic following Erikssen's brilliant back-heeled flick. The visitors soon threatened to reply, however, and Andersen was forced to save from a fierce Mark Bresciano effort.

Olsen rang the changes after the interval to give several fringe players their chance to impress. Central defender Bjelland - who is fighting with Simon Kjær for a place alongside Daniel Agger - looked assured and it did his chances of a starting berth no harm when he doubled Denmark's advantage after a scramble in the box. Before that, Brosque came close to equalising, only for Andersen to save well when one-on-one with the striker - and that was as close as Australia came to spoiling his clean sheet.


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