Dutch, French triumph as Italy slip up
The Dutch, European champions in 1988, edged a vastly-less experienced England side 3-2 at Wembley thanks to a double by Arjen Robben, while the French, who have twice been crowned European champions, beat Germany 2-1 in Bremen.
Elsewhere, David Silva's first goal of the year and a hat-trick by Roberto Soldado helped defending champions Spain to an emphatic 5-0 victory over Copa America semi-finalists Venezuela. Sebastian Larsson's double, meanwhile, was instrumental in an impressive 3-1 win for Sweden over fellow EURO 2012 finalists Croatia.
The Republic of Ireland also showed they will be no pushovers at their first EURO finals since the 1988 edition as they fought back to draw 1-1 with fellow qualifiers the Czech Republic in Dublin. Milan Baros, a veteran of the outstanding Czech side that reached the EURO 2004 semi-finals, put the visitors ahead before Simon Cox levelled late in the second-half.
Sadly there was to be no resounding tribute to the late Wales coach Gary Speed as the Welsh lost 1-0 to Costa Rica in his memorial match.
Dutch deny England fightback
England - who lost captain John Terry and coach Fabio Capello in the past month, with the former being stripped of the captaincy by the Football Association (FA) and the latter walking out because of that decision - were hit by two goals in one minute in the second half.
However, they fought back to level it in the late stages only for Robben to win it in time added on. England caretaker coach Stuart Pearce said that at least the game had proved useful in terms of learning things both for him and the players against a side that reached the FIFA World Cup™ final just two years ago.
"Maybe there was a lack of belief, which is something we have got to get into the squad going forward," said Pearce, who is Under-21 coach and due to coach the Great Britain team at the Olympics later this year. "In the end we were a bit disappointed to lose the game, but we've learnt a lot and learned a bit about the individuals for the summer and that was always the intention for tonight."
Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk meanwhile praised his side's performance as they banished the memory of their last international, a 3-0 defeat to Germany. "We lost against Germany on the counter-attack and we didn't want to lose on counter attack here. You have to defend against England as they have a lot of very fast players and that's a weapon. But we were happy to play our football, and the pitch was unbelievably good," he added.
France see off Germany
Goals from Olivier Giroud and Florent Malouda inflicted the first defeat on Germany since they were last beaten by the same margin against Australia last March. Germany's Brazil-born striker Cacau scored a late consolation for the hosts, but the French deserved the win.
It was a disciplined performance from France, who open their EURO 2012 campaign against England in Donetsk on 11 June, and they dominated a weakened German team lacking five first-choice players. "I am very pleased with the game my team played, this was one of our better performances since I took charge," said Blanc.
"From our point of view, everything went well, I was pleased with the way we pushed forward and, of course, I'm very pleased with the win."
Joachim Low was concerned by the manner in which his team had allowed France to run the game. "You have to be annoyed when you lose, but I was more concerned about the manner in which we lost," said Low. "We didn't find our game and France were clearly better than us. There was too much space between our midfield and defence and we were present enough at times in defence.
"For two years we played with two strikers (Cassano and Rossi), now without them we have to see which forwards can finish off the work from midfield," said Italy coach Cesare Prandelli. "If we played every week I'd find (the answer) in a month, but I really believe we'll find it between now and the EUROs."