By convincingly dispatching the Netherlands 3-0 on Tuesday, Germany again demonstrated that they are currently the team to beat in Europe, while Copa America winners Uruguay continued their own fine run of form by securing a clinical 1-0 victory over Italy in Rome.
Elsewhere, world champions Spain battled to the very end of their game with Costa Rica in order to scrape a 2-2 draw, after trailing 2-0 at half-time. Other notable results during 2011's final round of international friendlies included a 1-0 win for England over Sweden and an impressive 3-2 triumph for the USA in Slovenia.
The big match
Germany 3-0 Netherlands
Goals: Thomas Muller 15, Miroslav Klose 26, Mesut Ozil 66
The semi-finalists from the last FIFA World Cup™ were too strong for the runners-up on Tuesday evening, as the Netherlands showed that their defence is nowhere near as strong as their attack. Germany, however, do not suffer from the same problem, and their well-balanced side continues to catch the eye with a free-moving style of play that spreads the ball all over the pitch. And with their forwards combining as well as they ever have done, the opening goal was not long in coming. Toni Kroos, marauding down the left, spotted Miroslav Klose – outstanding on the night – in space on the right-hand side of the box, and delivered a perfect cross-field pass to his attack-minded team-mate. The German captain laid the ball off first-time on the volley to Thomas Muller, who expertly steered it past Maarten Stekelenburg in the Dutch goal to give Die Nationalmannschaft the lead. The second goal, which delivered a knockout blow to the opposition, saw Mesut Ozil send in a fine cross from the right on to the head of Klose, who made no mistake from midway inside the area. In the second half, Ozil rounded off an excellent move to get on the scoresheet himself, leaving the Oranje reeling.
The other games
On a difficult surface that had been badly affected by heavy rain, Spain dominated the early exchanges of their match with Costa Rica, knocking the ball around in their usual fashion but exhibiting a lack of composure in front of goal, with Cesc Fabregas the main culprit. As time went by, the Costa Ricans grew in confidence and took a deserved lead through Randall Brenes, following a major misjudgement by Iker Casillas. The home side then doubled their lead, young Lorient forward Joel Campbell delightfully curling the ball into the net from just outside the box. After the break, with the rain increasing in force, the Spanish pressed hard in an attempt to repair their damaged pride. Seven minutes from time, David Silva provided La Roja with a lifeline, before David Villa snatched a last-gasp equaliser in injury time.
Uruguay, still without talisman Diego Forlan, gave Italy a lesson in clinical finishing at the Stadio Olimpico, in a highly competitive encounter that belied its friendly status. Following Sebastian Fernandez’s early goal, the Uruguayans adopted a rugged pressing game that disrupted the Italians’ flow. Despite a solid debut from Pablo Osvaldo, Roma’s Argentine-born striker, the home side were unable to convert their territorial dominance into concrete chances.
England, meanwhile, again contented themselves with a 1-0 victory, with Sweden on the wrong end of the scoreline this time out. Swedish defender Daniel Majstorovic deflected a Gareth Barry header into his own net for the only goal of a game that the Three Lions never truly looked like losing. Without players of the calibre of Wayne Rooney, who was not retained by Fabio Capello, they were guilty of some serious misfiring up front, however.
France had to make do with a scoreless draw at home to Belgium, which stretched their recent unbeaten series of matches to 17, 11 of which have ended in victory. Despite this run, the fifth best in their history, French fans and media still appear unconvinced by the style and system on display.
Brazil won 2-0 in Egypt to register their fifth successive triumph, a result achieved with a young, vibrant side. Earning his fifth cap on the night, Valencia attacker Jonas notched his first and second goals for Brazil, continuing the form that saw him finish top scorer in the Brazilian league last season with 23 strikes.
The co-hosts of next summer’s UEFA EURO 2012 tournament both emerged victorious from their respective preparatory matches. Ukraine confirmed the form they showed in their recent good performance against Germany by beating Austria 2-1 in stoppage time. Poland’s match followed a similar path, with their decisive goal versus Hungary coming four minutes from the end. It was a different story for Greece, who stumbled to a 3-1 home defeat against Romania, while fellow EURO qualifiers Denmark overcame the loss of the opening goal to overcome Finland 2-1, with Nicklas Bendtner grabbing the winner.
After losing 1-0 to France in a tight match last week, the United States showed the progress they have made by winning 3-2 in Slovenia, in an exciting encounter that saw Edson Buddle, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore all score for the away side, while Tim Matavz replied twice for the Europeans. The surprise result of the night was undoubtedly recorded in Honduras, where locals celebrated their heroes’ 2-0 triumph over Serbia. Forward Jerry Bengtson scored both goals, and now boasts 8 in 20 international appearances.
Finally, Libya secured an impressive 1-1 draw away to Belarus.
Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon racked up his 112th cap against Uruguay on Tuesday, and in doing so drew level with the legendary Dino Zoff. La Nazionale’s former custodian reached the same number of appearances over a 25-year period (1968-83), just after having lifted the 1982 FIFA World Cup at the age of 40. Buffon, whose international career began in 1997, is still only 33, however, and will likely add to his tally in the coming years.
Goal of the night
Italy 0-1 Uruguay (Sebastian Fernandez 3)
Jose Martin Caceres made a break down the right wing, finding space and whipping over a good cross into the middle that Sebastian Fernandez guided past Buffon into the corner of the net, despite the presence of numerous Italian defenders.
178 – The seemingly unassailable international appearance record held by Saudi Arabia keeper Mohammed Al-Deayea was equalled on Monday, and, even more impressively, it was an outfield player that achieved it. 36-year-old midfielder Ahmed Hassan picked up his 178th cap for Egypt in their friendly clash with Brazil.
Have your say
Which European team has performed the best in 2011?