Although UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers are currently dominating Planet Football, the rest of the globe is busy preparing for their respective continental championships or just keeping limber in advance of the start of qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™. FIFA.com takes a look at the international friendlies from this week as South America’s representatives had a couple of days to remember.
Match of the Day
Croatia 2-1 Norway
Goals: Mohammed Abdellaoue (NOR) 20’; Mario Mandzukic (CRO) 34’, Niko Kranjcar (CRO) 49’
The Croats edged their Scandinavian rivals in an unlikely contest of European high-flyers, both unbeaten in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying. Croatia, who lead Group F, were only slightly the better of Norway, who are surprise toppers of Group H. Mohammed Abdellaoue opened the scoring for the hard-charging Norwegians, but the Balkan side righted the ship and muscled their way back into the contest in front of their home supporters in Zagreb. They drew level through Mario Mandzukic, who poked a Dario Srna free-kick home and got the winner by way of in-form Tottenham man Niko Kranjcar, who added to his two-goal haul against Israel at the weekend.
The Far East saw a battle of Asian heavyweights as Japan and Korea Republic battled to a gritty 0-0 stalemate in Seoul. The Japanese, with Alberto Zaccheroni stalking the touchline for only his second game in charge, were unable to produce the kind of fireworks that saw them beat Argentina last week. Paraguay were too hot for New Zealand to handle in Wellington, with goals from Nelson Haedo Valdez and Osvaldo Martinez sealing a 2-0 win for the South Americans in a replay of their goalless draw at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Indonesia overcame a humiliating 7-1 loss to Uruguay, setting the record straight with a morale-boosting 3-0 win over minnows Maldives, while the Philippines hammered Macau 5-0 as Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong played out a 1-1 draw.
Uruguay kept up their winning ways with a 4-0 over China in driving wind and rain thanks to four goals in the last 20 minutes. Ecuador also helped to keep South America smiling, following a 2-0 win for Brazil on Monday in England, avoiding defeat against a rampaging Poland in the Canadian city of Montreal. Mexico-based ace Christian Benitez scored both goals against the UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts in the 2-2 draw. A lone second-half strike from Gabriel Torres lifted Panama to a 1-0 home victory over a Peru side hampered by the first-half dismissal of Carlos Zambrano.
Over in Muscat, Pedro Morales’ lone goal was enough to see Chile edge hosts Oman 1-0 while Kuwait came from a goal down to beat Vietnam 3-1 in Kuwait City, Yousef Nasser scoring twice. Saudi Arabia were beaten 2-0 by Lothar Matthaus’ Bulgaria, one of only three European sides in friendly action, with Dimitar Rangelov and Valeri Domovchiski getting the goals.
Angola were the only African side to taste victory when they beat hosts United Arab Emirates 2-0 in Abu Dhabi. Uzbekistan pulled off an impressive result on the road in Manama, topping Bahrain 4-2 while AFC Asian Cup holders Iraq pulled off a sharp 2-1 win over Qatar away from home in Doha.
CONCACAF action began on Monday with Jamaica bolstering their hope for success at the upcoming Caribbean Cup in Martinique with a 1-0 win over Caribbean powers Trinidad and Tobago, who are also participating in the competition. USA coach Bob Bradley made five changes from the side that drew with Poland last week, but the end result remained the same as the Stars and Stripes laboured to a 0-0 draw with Colombia on Tuesday, their first goalless draw for over two years.
Ten-man Venezuela secured a 2-2 draw in Mexico with Juan Arango grabbing a double while El Tri twice came from behind through Javier Hernandez and Giovani dos Santos. A late winner from Josue Martinez gave Costa Rica a 2-1 victory over El Salvador in San Jose. Finally, Honduras showed impressive resolve to recover from their long haul to New Zealand on the weekend by winning 2-0 in Guatemala with a goal in each half.
Player of the day
Emad Mohammed was the hero for Iraq with both goals in their win over Qatar on the road in Doha. As the Gulf side get set to defend their Asian Cup crown in a little under three months’ time, the striker proved himself every inch the difference at the Khalifa Stadium, scoring a classy winner in the 57th minute, following on from his 11th-minute opener. Plying his club trade for Cairo giants Zamalek in the Egyptian Premier League, the diminutive 28-year-old – Iraq’s player of the year in 2000 – is in the kind of form that will please coach Wolfgang Sidka when Asia’s football extravaganza kicks off, also in Doha, in early January.
11 - the number of goals that Uruguay, semi-finalists at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, have scored in their last two friendlies. Last week’s 7-1 thumping of Indonesia was followed up with a 4-0 win over China on the road as the Celeste averaged a goal every 12 minutes in their last two outings. The feat is even more impressive considering the South Americans failed to get goals from their top scorer, talisman and South Africa 2010’s best player Diego Forlan, who missed the trip to Jakarta and played only an hour of the win in China.
What they said
"The depth is growing. Football is in great shape [in New Zealand] and it's great to be part of it,” New Zealand coach Ricki Herbert was far from dismayed by his side’s loss to Paraguay at home.