With just under 100 days left until the kick-off of the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, most of the teams that will feature in the finals were in action on Wednesday, including several in high-profile contests between the game’s most prestigious names. Join FIFA.com for a trip around a busy planet football.
The big game
Germany 0-1 Argentina
Goals: Gonzalo Higuain 45’
Argentina are now unbeaten in their last six matches against Germany since the Final of the 1990 FIFA World Cup; Higuain’s poacher’s goal just before half-time was the only thing to separate the two giants today. The Albiceleste had the better of the first half at the Allianz Arena in Munich, but Joachim Low’s side looked far livelier in the second period, with Brazil-born substitute Cacau creating dangerous ripples up front and looking a good bet for a place in the starting line-up in the matches to come.
Côte d'Ivoire 0-2 Korea Republic
Goals: Lee Dong-Gook 4’, Kwak Tae-Hwi 90’
Two goals from set pieces were the difference at Loftus Road in London as Lee’s well-timed volley came after a poor clearance of Ki Sung-Yueng's free-kick, and Kwak’s header from Kim Jae-Sung's free-kick sealed the result. The Elephants, who are currently without a manager after sacking Vahid Halihodzic, created a handful of chances for Didier Drogba, but the striker had an off night in front of net.
Italy 0-0 Cameroon
The reigning FIFA World Cup champions have been dealing with a rash of injuries, and they failed to break down an organised Cameroon side in Louis II Stadium in Monaco. Marcello Lippi gave chances to Marco Borriello, Gianpaolo Pazzini and Fabio Quagliarella in attack as well as debuts to defenders Leonardo Bucci and Andrea Cossu, but the Azzurri ultimately lacked any thrust.
France 0-2 Spain
Goals: David Villa 21’, Sergio Ramos 45+1’
European champions Spain brushed aside their injury-weakened hosts at the Stade de France behind two first half goals. Both tallies had an element of luck to them. The first was made by Andres Iniesta’s through ball, but it was intended for Cesc Fabregas, not Villa. But ‘The Kid’ made no mistake with the chance to claim his 37th international goal. Just before the half-time break Ramos grabbed the second with a shot that took a deflection on its way into the net.
Netherlands 2-1 USA
Goals: Dirk Kuyt 39’ pen, Klaas Huntelaar 72’; Carlos Bocanegra 88’
The United States were largely ineffectual in midfield against the home side, though they did manage their first goal in their four contests against the Dutch. But Bocanegra’s late header at the Amsterdam Arena was ultimately a mere consolation as Wesley Sneijder looked in stellar form, winning the penalty converted by Kuyt. Huntelaar’s long shot was also deflected in, leaving Tim Howard little chance in the US goal.
England 3-1 Egypt
Goals: Peter Crouch 56’, 80’, Shaun Wright-Phillips 74’; Mohamed Zidan 23’
A well-taken shot from the edge of the area by Zidan after a slip by the English defence had Fabio Capello’s men behind to the African champions at the break, but the coach’s substitutes turned the tide for the Three Lions at Wembley. First Crouch pulled one back after a good cross by Gareth Barry, then Wright-Phillips cracked home a rebound off goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary before Crouch completed the scoring.
Portugal 2-0 China PR
Goals: Hugo Almeida 36', Liedson 90+4'
Though it was a fairly straightforward win for the Portuguese, they should have put the match away much earlier, but they were let down by their finishing. Cristiano Ronaldo, who was back in the team after an injury layoff, set up the first, and it was the man who replaced him that finished out the scoring deep in second half injury time.
Goal of the day
Germany 0-1 Argentina, Gonzalo Higuain (45’)
Angel Di Maria’s long left-footed pass was perfectly weighted and curled, and it tore the German defence to shreds, forcing goalkeeper Rene Adler to come 35 yards out of his goal to try to cover stranded defender Per Mertesacker. But Higuain got a deft touch to the ball, drifted away from the defence and slotted easily into the open net from 30 yards out - a clinical piece of class that was the difference between the sides.
Player of the day
It was an impressive team performance for Serbia in defeating Algeria 3-0 in Algiers, but Zdravko Kuzmanovic showed a good deal of panache after coming on as a substitute. He coolly scored the second in traffic following a free-kick that was not dealt with, and it was his pass that set up the third from Zoran Tosic at the end of a brilliantly quick counter-attack as the Fennecs pushed forward.
Result of the day
Though 2002 FIFA World Cup quarter-finalists Senegal will not be in South Africa this summer, they showed they still have plenty to offer as they swept aside qualifiers Greece 2-0 on the road. Mamadou Niang and Guirane Ndaw scored the second half goals, the former at the end of a mazy run and the latter from an unstoppable 25-yard free-kick, as the 94th-ranked team in the FIFA/Coca Cola World Ranking beat the outfit ranked 84 places above them.
10 - The number of 2010 FIFA World Cup qualified teams that were held without a goal on Wednesday: Honduras, Slovakia, Côte d'Ivoire, Greece, Algeria, Italy and Cameroon, Germany, France and New Zealand.
What they said
“A fair result should have been a win. It’s always a process and a lesson, and I was grateful for the opportunity to look again at some players who have not been with the team for so long. It was good to see them again and helps our decision-making for the World Cup. Everything is part of the process.” South Africa coach Carlos Alberto Parreira after his team were held 1-1 at home by Namibia.
Have your say
After these high-profile matches, who is the current favourite to win the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa? Can Spain or Argentina or a dark horse unseat Italy? Click on 'Add your comment' to share your views with fans from across the world.