Night of international upsets
The start of the international season is often marked by a number of surprising results, and that was certainly the case on Wednesday as 42 friendly matches and six UEFA EURO 2008 qualifiers took place across Planet Football.
The most eye-catching outcomes included Italy's 3-1 defeat in Hungary, England's 2-1 loss at home to Germany and Argentina's 2-1 reverse in Norway, but the most significant results came in the realm of the competitive game. Given an opportunity to boost their cause in qualifying Group A for next summer's continental showcase, Portugal's 1-1 draw in Armenia constituted a real slip-up, while Serbia's 3-2 setback in Belgium could also prove significant in the same section.
England's own UEFA EURO 2008 campaign is hardly in healthy
shape either, and Steve McClaren's men missed a chance to boost
confidence ahead of their upcoming qualifiers by succumbing to an
under-strength but effective Germany side. The night started well
for the hosts when Frank Lampard's powerful effort flew high
into the net after ten minutes, but their second senior
international at the new Wembley began to turn sour when Kevin
Kuranyi punished Paul Robinson's goalkeeping error 17 minutes
Christian Pander then gave a stunning glimpse of his potential by firing in from 20 metres to celebrate his first cap with a goal, and his proved to be the last strike of the evening. The English were unable to make their domination count after the break, while Germany looked intermittently dangerous on the counter without being able to increase their advantage.
Henry closes in on record
The biggest shock of all came in Budapest, however, where world champions Italy collapsed to a 3-1 defeat after opening the scoring. Roland Juhasz, Zoltan Gera and Robert Feczesin responded to give Hungary a memorable win and provide the Azzurri with food for thought before they face France in their next competitive outing. For their part, the French gained revenge over Slovakia with a narrow 1-0 success in Trnava, Thierry Henry registering the only goal of the game to bring himself to within one strike of Michel Platini's national record of 41.
Elsewhere, Henry's Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho returned for Brazil after missing the Copa America. Up against the courageous Algeria team that impressed in their 4-3 loss to Argentina two months ago, the Seleçao managed to carve out a 2-0 win, with Ronaldinho setting up Maicon for the first from a corner before burying the second himself. Jean-Michel Cavalli's beaten Fennecs can take a few positives from the encounter, though, and they ought to be raring to tackle Gambia in their next match.
Brazil's great rivals Argentina fared less well, as John Carew hit the target twice to hand hosts Norway a memorable 2-1 triumph. Maxi Rodriguez struck the South Americans' consolation effort.
There were also good results for the UEFA EURO 2008 co-hosts, with Switzerland completing a prestigious 2-1 victory over the Netherlands courtesy of two goals from Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta. Austria shone too as they secured a 1-1 draw with the Czech Republic, Martin Harnitz equalising after Jan Koller put the Czechs in front.
The most emphatic performance of the day belonged to Ireland,
who picked up a stunning 4-0 win in Denmark thanks to two goals
apiece from Robbie Keane and Shane Long. The prize for most goals
in a single match went to the meeting between Croatia and Bosnia,
however, with visitors Croatia earning themselves a 5-3 success.
In various other friendlies, Israel lost 2-1 in Belarus, Sweden saw off the USA 1-0 and Spain celebrated a 3-2 win in Greece, where Carlos Marchena and two-goal David Silva did the damage.
Ronaldo saves Portugal
On the qualification front, Portugal dropped two valuable points on the road to the UEFA EURO 2008 as they played out a 1-1 draw away to Group A counterparts Armenia. The home side went ahead through Robert Arzumanyan after 12 minutes and it took an excellent effort from Cristiano Ronaldo to bring the Portuguese level before the break.
Reduced to ten men after the sending-off of Jorge Andrade in the 69th minute, the Iberians were unable to conjure up a winner and now find themselves four points behind Poland, who did not play on Wednesday, and three behind Finland, who battled hard to secure a 2-1 triumph at home to minnows Kazakhstan.
In the same group, Belgium got back to winning ways by overcoming Serbia 3-2. Moussa Dembele scored twice and Kevin Mirallas was also on target for the Red Devils, but they needed to weather a fierce comeback from the visitors, for whom Zdravko Kuzmanovic struck both goals.
The favourites all prevailed in the three remaining qualifiers, with Estonia beating Andorra 2-1, Northern Ireland defeating Liechtenstein 3-1 and Cyprus clinching a narrow 1-0 victory over San Marino.