There was time midweek in football’s busy schedule for the international scene to take precedence over club action with a large number of fixtures taking place, ahead of important matches later in the year.>
Euro 2012 qualifiers and the 2011 Copa America are what many nations are building towards so this week’s fixtures represented another good opportunity to build towards those events.
Denmark 1 England 2 in Copenhagen
Liverpool’s Daniel Agger put the Danish ahead early but England fought back with Aston Villa pair Darren Bent and Ashley Young getting the goals to earn the Three Lions the win.
For England, young midfielder Jack Wilshere was given his maiden international start and impressed but perhaps he was outshone by Denmark’s own youngster Christian Eriksen. The good news for the Three Lions was the performance of their young brigade, with Young excellent off the bench, while James Milner and Theo Walcott were both good.
For Denmark, Erikson - the man dubbed as ‘the new Michael Laudrup’ – was exceptional and arguably the best man on the park. The Danes, though, got little from Arsenal’s Nicklas Bendtner up front. Mass second-half changes, though, made it difficult to judge Denmark’s performance.
Spain 1 Colombia 0 in Madrid
The World champions were frustrated and frustrated for the most part in the Spanish capital, until David Silva broke through for the winner on 86 minutes. Have sides worked out how to stifle the Spanish? Good question.
The Spaniards are having a poor run post World Cup, but Andres Iniesta was excellent as a creative midfielder against Colombia. Keeper Iker Casillas was solid too, while Gerard Pique had a strange old game at the back.
The Colombians warmed up for the Copa America with a decent performance against Spain, with the stand-out player being Pablo Estifer Armero at full-back.
Germany 1 Italy 1 in Dortmund
In a repeat of the 2006 World Cup semi-final, Germany lead for most of the game after Miroslav Klose’s 16th-minute strike, only for Italy to level late through Giuseppe Rossi.
Die Mannschaft may rue not putting the Azzurri away, especially given Mesut Ozil’s dominant performance. The Real Madrid man’s wonderful backheel set up the opener and he was excellent all game. German young star Mario Gotze struggled for impact off the bench as he was played out of position, while Philipp Lahm and Thomas Muller were typically impressive.
For the Italians, coach Cesare Prandelli said a draw was a fair result after creating good chances in the second-half. Antonio Cassano was particularly good, while goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon was back to his best. Thiago Motta’s performance in midfield was a concern.
Netherlands 3 Austria 1 in Eindhoven
Wesley Sneijder produced an exceptional goal to open the scoring, before goals from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Dirk Kuyt sealed an easy win for the Dutch. Ex-Twente striker Marko Arnautovic dragged one back from the spot.
For the Dutch, Ruud van Nistelrooy continued his return to the international scene with a 20-minute cameo off the pine but he couldn’t find the back of the net. New Barcelona midfielder Ibrahim Afellay was impressive, along with Kuyt as attacking threats.
France 1 Brazil 0 in Paris
Karim Benzema got the game’s only goal after some brilliance from Jeremy Menez against 10-man Brazil. For the youthful Brazilians, Hernanes was sent off in the first-half for a high tackle on Benzema.
Menez was one of the stars for Les Bleus, but he needs to put it together for 90 minutes. Benzema produced an impressive performance too, while defender Philippe Mexes was good.
Mano Menezes’ young Brazil side fell short in the French capital, although goalkeeper Julio Cesar was at his best. Liverpool midfielder Lucas was tireless in midfield, while Hernanes’ moment of madness when he saw red – which was perhaps a tad harsh – didn’t help. Alexandre Pato had a tough night too.
Argentina 2 Portugal 1 in Geneva
Perhaps the story was that Lionel Messi got the better of Cristiano Ronaldo in Geneva. But he did it the hard way, after Angel Di Maria put Argentina ahead only for Ronaldo to level on 20 minutes. Messi, though, had the last laugh when he scored from the spot on 88 minutes.
Both sides had plenty of chances to win the contest, and Portugal coach Paulo Bento said he believed his side were not inferior to the Argentinians. Joao Moutinho and Raul Meireles were good in midfield for Portugal, while Cristiano Ronaldo was their star.
But Ronaldo didn’t match the impact of Messi, who was a constant threat in attack. Alongside Messi, Ezequiel Lavezzi was a danger too, while Nicolas Burdisso and Ever Banega impressed.