As UEFA EURO 2016 draws ever closer, fans, experts and coaches alike are keeping a very close eye on the participating sides. Are my team in form? What are their objectives? Is this our year? Over the past few days, Europe’s top sides have ventured out to make their mark for the first time in four months.
FIFA.com brings you all the latest from the friendly matches played across the Old Continent in the past week and takes a quick look at Asia, where FIFA World Cup™ qualification has captured the region’s imagination.
The Big Match
Germany 4-1 Italy
Toni Kroos 24, Mario Gotze 45, Jonas Hector 59, Mesut Ozil 75 pen; Stephan El Shaarawy 83
After almost 21 years without a win against arch-rivals Italy, the reigning world champions finally brought this frustrating run to an end in emphatic style on Tuesday evening. Coach Joachim Low’s side 4-1 victory in Munich partly compensated for their 3-2 defeat at the hands of England a few days earlier. FIFA World Cup winners Kroos, Gotze and Ozil found the target together with Hector, while El Shaarawy snatched a consolation goal for the visitors in the closing stages.
Despite this resounding result, Germany’s record against La Squadra Azzurra remains a negative one, with eight wins, ten draws and 15 defeats in 33 matches.
The Three Lions followed up their win over Germany on Saturday with a 2-1 loss to the Netherlands in front of a home crowd at Wembley after a letting slip a 1-0 half-time lead.
Reigning European champions Spain played out a goalless draw in Romania on Sunday, UEFA EURO 2016 hosts France defeated their 2018 FIFA World Cup counterparts Russia 4-2 two days later. Meanwhile, FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking leaders Belgium lost 2-1 in Portugal, with three-time FIFA Ballon d’Or recipient Cristiano Ronaldo scoring to give his team a 2-0 advantage.
Football fans in Dublin witnessed a captivating spectacle between the Republic of Ireland and Slovakia in which the Boys in Green scored two penalties, Paul McShane netted an own goal and Miroslav Stoch got on the scoresheet for the visitors – all in the first half. The duel between the two UEFA EURO 2016 participants ultimately ended in deadlock at 2-2.
Elsewhere, Greece supporters endured a rollercoaster ride in Piraeus. After a brace from Kostas Fortounis put the home side on course for victory against Iceland, Arnor Ingvi Traustason , Sverrir Ingason and substitute Kolbeinn Sigthorsson all fired home to snatch a 3-2 win in the Scandinavians’ favour.
While most Asian sides were still focused on qualifying for Russia 2018, Thailand and Korea Republic contested a friendly, having already progressed to the third round of qualification as group winners. Hyunjun Suk’s fourth-minute strike proved the difference in a 1-0 triumph for the Taeguk Warriors.
Did you know?
Northern Ireland made footballing history in their homeland as their 1-0 victory against Slovenia extended the UEFA EURO debutants’ unbeaten streak to a record ten matches. “It’s something we’re very proud of as a team and something we’ve worked extremely hard for,” said midfielder Oliver Norwood. “There were a lot of dark days four or five years ago, but now we’re on the up.” Conor Washington scored the game’s only goal in the 41st minute.
Ramazan Ozcan has had little luck in the Austrian goal recently. He was at fault for Turkey’s stoppage-time winner in a 2-1 defeat, leaving him without a win in six international appearances (three draws, three losses). In contrast, Turkey continue to build momentum and are now unbeaten since November 2014.
What they said…
"We’re now in incredibly good form – as the goals suggest – and we still have some time before the EUROs."
Poland striker Robert Lewandowski after his team’s latest wins over Serbia (1-0) and Finland (5-0).
"I’m getting closer and closer to retirement. I know time is against me, but I love playing in this team alongside so many top-quality talents. I don’t know if it’s my last season with Spain, but I’m enjoying every minute of it."
Spanish world and European champion Iker Casillas discusses the prospect of retirement after equalling Latvian Vitalijs Astafjevs’ European record of 166 international caps.
"It doesn’t matter to me whether I’m playing a friendly or not. I want to win every match."
Germany midfielder Toni Kroos, who scored for the world champions against England before netting the opener against Italy.