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You are here: Football FIFA World Cup International Friendly Sunday Wrap Part 1: England limp past Japan, South Korea beaten, Ivory Coast held

International Friendly Sunday Wrap Part 1: England limp past Japan, South Korea beaten, Ivory Coast held

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rooney_james_johnson.jpgEngland today were handed a rude wake up call, after they needed  the help of two late own-goals to get past Asian giants Japan in a friendly in Austria. After barely managing to beat Mexico earlier in the week, the Three Lions gave their supporters huge cause for concern by struggling to score against a team ranked almost 35 places below them in the FIFA World Rankings. With this being their final warm up game before the beginning of the show piece event in 2 weeks time, one wonders what fate awaits the English national team that has promised so much under Italian boss Fabio Capello.

David James was given the role between the sticks as Capello wished to figure out who his best bet would be for South Africa 2010 with Joe Hart and Robert Green also in the fray. One of the world's best defences on paper was on display as John Terry and Rio Ferdinand paired up with full-backs Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole for company. A young midfield was on show as Tom Huddlestone, Aaron Lennon and Theo Walcott accompanied the stable Frank Lampard in the middle of the park. Darren Bent, with a hugely successful season behind him, was chosen to pair upfront with Wayne Rooney and conjure up the goals for the Three Lions.

The dreams that Capello had shown to the English supporters had slowly started diminishing after the performance against Mexico, but when Glen Johnson's misdemeanor on the right allowed Yasuhito Endo to drill a low cross into the box for Marcus Tanaka to connect, all those fans would have feared the worst. England were a goal down with 7 minutes gone on the clock. Tom Huddlestone failed to check Tanaka's run into the box and the youngster on his first England start was looking like a sitting duck ready to be hunted down by the Japanese. Darren Bent has been one of the most consistent Englishmen in front of goal in the BPL, but when he got a golden opportunity to level the score a few minutes later, he headed wide. Both Bent and Huddlestone were taken off at half time even as Fabio Capello would have delivered a verbal bashing to his English lads for their horrendous display on the pitch.

John Terry and Rio Ferdinand were playing together for the first time since Terry was axed from captaincy and the two looked far from comfortable. Capello made 5 changes at half time with Joe Cole, Jamie Carragher, Joe Hart, Steven Gerrard and Shaun Wright-Phillips coming on to help save England the blushes. Bent and Huddlestone look certain to be axed on Tuesday and after today's display Capello would probably not be too emotional to break the news out to them. Theo Walcott too misfired and one would think that his inclusion would come for the lack of better options on the Italian's part. England were awarded a spot kick in the 2nd half after Lampard's free kick was handled in the box. The Chelsea midfielder stepped up to take the penalty but failed to beat Japanese keeper Kawashima. The Three Lions looked frustrated at this point feeling at once that today was not to be their day, and they were probably right, with their performance being as dispiriting as the smell of a morgue.

Joe Hart kept England in the game with a 2nd half display that definitely merits a consideration for the No.1 jersey in South Africa. The young goal keeper made excellent saves on either side of Lampard's missed spot kick. Joe Cole provided a cross for England's opening goal that was aimed at Wayne Rooney, but was turned in by Tanaka as the defender cancelled out his own first half goal with only 17 minutes to go in the game. England fans could breathe easy again as Fabio Capello's troops looked set to avoid a major embarrassment. 10 minutes later it was another cross from a Cole, this time Ashley who aimed once again for Wayne Rooney; with the latter's presence forcing an own goal from Yuji Nakazawa. The comeback was complete and Fabio Capello's England had managed a third straight, albeit unconvincing, win.

The likes of Huddlestone, Walcott and Bent look set to be axed by the former Real Madrid boss as he looks to take his best players to World Cup. After today's performance Capello will be hoping that the chemistry is far better against the Americans on the 13th of June. Joe Cole impressed in the second period playing just behind the strikers in a much more central role than he would usually be deployed. Jamie Carragher may get the nod ahead of Liverpool mate Glen Johnson after the right back's dodgy show, which also included a part in Japan's first goal. Things are looking far from solid in the English camp and one hopes that the Italian is able to fulfill the expectations of a country that is thirsty for success for almost half a century now.

South Korea 0 - 1 Belarus

Belarus meanwhile, defeated South Korea 1-0 in a World Cup warm up match today in Kurfstein, Austria. Sergey Kisliak who ply's his trade in the midfield for Dinamo Minsk in the Belarusian League was on the mark for his country in the 53rd minute.

The Red Devils, who came into the game on the back of a four game winning streak, were expected to cruise to victory against a Belarus side ranked a lowly 82nd in the FIFA rankings. South Korea next play Spain on 3rd June in Innsbruck, in what will be their final World Cup warm up match.

Paraguay 2-2 Ivory Coast

Paraguay made a remarkable comeback drawing against the Ivory Coast after looking down and out at 0-2 with only a quarter of an hour left to play in a World Cup warm up match on Sunday in France.

After a dull first half with both sides unable to score, Ivory Coast's debutant coach Sven Goran Eriksson made a triple substitution bringing on Emmanuel Eboue, Souleymane Bamba and Yao Kouassi Gervinho in place of Gosso, Toure and Kalou. Seven minutes later Ivory Coast was in the lead as Barclays Premier League 'Golden Boot' winner, Didier Drogba scored from a deflected freekick.

In the 70th minute, Paraguay head coach Gerardo Martino decided it was his turn for a triple substitution and he brought on Roque Santa Cruz, Lucas Barrios and Cristian Miguel Riveros. But it was Ivory Coast's substitute who drew first blood when former PSG defender, Bamba doubled the African team's lead in the 73rd minute, through a well taken volley at the far post.

Just when it looked like The Elephants had done enough, Paraguay's substitute Lucas Barrios put them right back in the game with a low shot past goalkeeper Boubacar Barry's goal in the 75th minute. And in the 89th minute, defender Aureliano Torres completed the fight back for the White and Blue's with another deflected freekick.

Paraguay and Ivory Coast both move to Switzerland next, where they will face Greece and Japan on 2nd and 4th June respectively.

Mexico 5-1 Gambia

Mexico thrashed Gambia 5-1 in another World Cup warm up match on Sunday in Bayreuth, Germany. Mexico was in blistering form on a rainy day in Southern Germany and caught Gambia napping on counter-attacks.

Manchester United new signing Javier Hernandez continued his purple patch as he and his former club Chivas teammate Adolfo Bautista scored a brace each. Hernandez scored one in each half and looked set for a hat-trick before being substituted by Alberto Medina in the 56th minute.

Bautista on the other hand found the net in the 58th and 73rd minute for his country. Between Bautista's goals, midfielder Ebrima Sohna did manage to pull one back for the Scorpions in the 65th minute with a header. Substitute Medina then put the icing on the cake with a crisp shot from the left side after a swift counterattack by the El Tri in the 81st minute.

Mexico now face Italy on 3rd June in their final World Cup warm up match in Brussels, Belgium.

File Photograph Copyright: Shaun Brooks

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