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International Friendlies Monday Wrap: England stutter but overcome Mexico, Argentina cruise against Canada

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Three of the FIFA World Cup's major teams were in action last night as Argentina, Portugal and England played warm up games in order to prepare in the best possible way for the showpiece event beginning on the 11th of June. Two clashes between continental rivals spiced things up. Though friendlies allow you to make a host of substitutions which is against the laws of a competitive game, one can easily determine the preparation level of teams via these games and with 3 of the favourites on show yesterday, we did end up much more enlightened than when we started out.

England 3 - 1 Mexico

england_celebrate.jpgTwo national teams formerly coached by Swede Sven Goran Eriksson took on each other in Wembley stadium in front of almost 90,000 spectators. For both teams the clash was an excellent litmus test and it proved to be quite a close encounter as most would have predicted. The FA Cup winners John Terry, Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard were rested by Fabio Capello for this game. Lieghton Baines was given a chance in that left back slot while Ledley King made it to the centre of defence in place of Terry in his first appearance for the Three Lions since 2007. James Milner and Michael Carrick started off in midfield while West Ham keeper Robert Green was placed between the sticks.

Mexico dominated the opening exchanges in the game but England took the lead against the run of play when Steven Gerrard's cross to the far post was headed down by Peter Crouch and slotted in by Ledley King in the 17th minute. Their second also came through some excellent build up play from the Liverpool captain. Gerrard whipped in an enticing delivery for Wayne Rooney whose effort was tipped by Mexican keeper Oscar Perez onto the crossbar, Peter Couch was on hand to pounce on the rebound, and helped the ball over the line.

It wasn't all over though as Mexico did get a goal at the stroke of half time from West Ham forward Guillermo Franco. Rafael Marquez's powerful header though cleared off the line, fell in the path of the opportunist striker, who duly complied by scoring for his team. At half time it was 2-1 and El Tri looked set to take this game down to the wire. However, just two minutes into the second half, England got a third via Glen Johnson. The full back cut inside the box with pace avoiding a host of challenges before slotting a powerful left footed drive past the clueless Oscar Perez.

Despite the comfort of the scoreline, England were shoddy at times, looking uncomfortable in defence. The midfield failed to control things in the middle of the park and one could see why these players do no constitute the likely starting 11 in South Africa this year. England fans will certainly be hoping that their team puts up a better showing in the World Cup.

Argentina 5 - 0 Canada

A goal-fest ensued when Argentian took on minnows Canada in Buenos Aires in preparation for the World Cup. Liverpool midfielder Maxi Rodriguez scored a brace while Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria were all on the score sheet as La Abuceleste went on to record their largest victory under coach Diego Maradona. It was their fifth successive win of the year though 3 of those victories have come against 2nd tier opposition. The Argentines aren't playing anymore friendlies before the World Cup and their next competitive game comes against the Nigerians in the group stages of the FIFA World Cup of 2010.

Portugal 0 - 0 Cape Verde Islands

Portugal succumbed to a 0 - 0 draw against world no. 117 Cape Verde Islands in the tiny stadium of Sporting Covilha last night. A host of chances were spurned by 32-year old Brazilian born striker Liedson, while Nani also missed a vital opportunity to put his team in the lead. Cristiano Ronaldo got into the game around the hour mark and his venomous efforts late on failed to put a dent on the oppositions' confidence. "It was a match played at the rhythm of a training ground game, after a week of intensive training," said Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz. "The players didn't take any risks and were not aggressive but they did what I wanted them to do which was to show discipline and organisation." Portugal take on Cameroon and Mozambique before opening their World Cup campaign.

South Africa 1 - 1 Bulgaria

The Bafana Bafana played out a 1-1 draw against non-qualifiers Bulgaria last night in the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg. Siyabonga Sangweni gave the hosts the lead in the 19th minute in a half that was dominated by South Africa. Bulgaria equalized 10 minutes later though via Valeri Bojinov who coverted one of the few chances created by them. The second half was a dull affair as both teams made plenty of changes and there wasn't any particular intent shown by either side to clinch victory. The FIFA World Cup hosts won't be overly disappointed by this result as it has come against a team ranked 50 places above them.

Australia 2 - 1 New Zealand

Australia snatched a dramatic extra time goal to clinch victory over New Zealand in a World Cup warm-up match between two South Africa bound sides. Substitute, Brett Hullman scored the winner in the last move of the game, deep into injury time. The Kiwis took the lead in the 16th minute through a well taken shot by Middlesborough striker, Chris Killen. The Socceroos leveled things up with debutant midfielder, Dario Vidosic scoring from a tight angle in the 57th minute.The match, as expected between the neighbouring islands, was marred with strong tackles. Leo Bertos was stretchered off in the 35th minute due to one such challenge. Bertos, however will be fit in time for New Zealand's first match in the World Cup against Slovakia on 15th June in Rustenburg.

South Korea 2 - 0 Japan

South Korea secured a 2-0 confidence boosting win over Japan in another contest between two sides heading to the World Cup finals. Manchester United midfielder, Park Ji Sung scored with an angled shot from the edge of the 18 yard box in the 6th minute to give the Koreans the lead. In a tightly contested game, with few clear cut chances, Japan's best opportunity came in the 20th minute when Vissel Kobe striker, Yoshito Okubo shot wide. AS Monaco forward, Park Chu-Young, who came on as a substitute in the second half, added a second for the Koreans from the spot kick after he was brought down in the penalty box by Japanese goalkeeper Seigo Narazaki in the dying minutes of the game. Both Japan and South Korea, will now head to Austria, where they will play their next warm up games against England and Belarus, respectively on 30th May respectively.

File Photograph Copyright: Richard Avis

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