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Thursday, Aug 13th

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

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.

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International Friendlies Tuesday Wrap: All 6 World Cup Finalists fail to win

rigobert_song.jpgSix of the thirty two FIFA World Cup finalits were engaged in friendlies last night in preparation for the 11th June show piece. The United States, Cameroon, Nigeria, North Korea, Greece and Paraguay all attempted to assure themselves and the world that they are in top notch shape going into the World Cup. The results though didn't show them in too good a light as none of the 6 aforementioned elite teams picked up a win last night.

Cameroon was held to a goalless draw by Georgia in a World Cup warm up match in Lienz, Austria. The 'Indomitable Lions' played without their captain and inspirational leader, Samuel Eto'o, who had not yet joined the team after his Champions league triumph with Inter Milan. Freiburg striker Mohamadou Idrissou missed two huge chances for Cameroon, who struggled to find any momentum. Valenciennes Goalkeeper Guy Roland Ndy Assembe, defender Jean Patrick Abouna Ndzana, midfielders Marcel Ndjeng (FC Augsburg) and Patrick Mevoungou all made their debut for the Lions. It was a disappointing result for 19th ranked Cameroon as they were unable to score against a team ranked 100 places below them in the FIFA World rankings. They will face Slovakia, Portugal and Serbia within the next 10 days in a very heavy build up season to the World Cup in South Africa.

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International Friendlies Wednesday Wrap: Les Blues and Oranje stutter past their Opponents

The World of international friendlies got incredibly exciting on Wednesday night with some of world football's top guns taking to the field for their final preparations for the upcoming FIFA World Cup finals. Five of the thirty two teams in South Africa were in action, with the Netherlands pitting wits against Mexico in the only match which featured two sides with a ticket to South Africa. All 4 matches saw wins, though a couple of the big guns did not have things completely their own way.

Netherlands 2 - 1 Mexico

robin_van_persie.jpgA brace from Robin van Persie in the first half won the game for the Oranje against Mexico, who were playing their second friendly in two days. El Tri were coming off the back of a 3-1 defeat to the English and this was another defeat from a European giant would not have helped their confidence one bit. Manchester United summer signing Javier Hernandez pulled one back for Mexico in the 75th minute but it was too little too late. The Dutch have a busy few days ahead of them as they take on the Ghanaians and Hungary before their World Cup campaign kicks off while Mexico will hope to return to winning ways when they meet Gambia, before a clash with defending champs Italy in their last pre-World Cup friendly.

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International Friendlies Thursday Wrap: Danes, Hosts and Honduras all set for FIFA World Cup

South Africa, Denmark and Honduras were the only three World Cup finalists in action on a slow Thursday night. The Bafana Banfana and Danes hosted their respective clashes against Columbia and Senegal while Honduras took on Belarus in Austria in front of a rather modest crowd. Though all 3 of our finalists aren't expected to pull off too much of an upset, they still impressed last night and look in good condition for the 11th June showpiece.

South Africa 2 - 1 Colombia

Carlos Alberto Perreira's South African team defeated Colombia last night in Johannesburg thanks to two penalties awarded to them either side of half time. Teko Modise gave the hosts the lead in the 17th minute. But Colombian midfielder Giovanni Moreno equalized also from the spot  within the next 5 minutes. The South Africans got their second penalty of the night in the 58th minute and this time Mamelodi Sundowns strikers Katlego Mphela slotted it past Colombian goal keeper David Ospina to give the Bafana Bafana a deserved victory.

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International Friendly Wrap: England, Argentina, Brazil win

fabio_capello.jpgThe FIFA World Cup in South Africa is less than a 100 days away and the 32 participants were busy gaining some valuable practice over the last couple of days. The Samba boys Brazil, the ever-efficient Germany, Diego Maradona's Argentina were all in action in the mid-week friendlies, taking their World Cup preparation forward. As national coaches finalise their squads for the mega-event in June, friendlies at this juncture will help them clear any inhibitions or doubts they carry, about players.

England took on African Champions Egypt at London's Wembley Stadium on Wednesday night. Fabio Capello's men ran out 3-1 winners, though not in very convincing fashion one may add. Chelsea skipper John Terry was booed by the crowd prior to kick off but all was forgotten once the Lions got their act together. Borussia Dortmund striker Mohamed Zidan gave the Egyptians the lead in the 23rd minute, capitalizing on a mistake from center-back Mathew Upson to coolly finish past goalkeeper Robert Green. The first half was dull and the home side lacked the cohesiveness to take the game to the opposition. Capello wrung in the substitutions in the second half and a brace from substitute Peter Crouch sandwiched a 75th minute strike from another substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips to hand England the victory. The African Champions proved to be a better opponent than most would have predicted and Capello will be pleased with his team's second half performance. Peter Crouch has built a strong case for himself to start alongside Wayne Rooney, who burst into life once the tall striker entered the fray.

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International Friendly Saturday Wrap: Serbia learn a World Cup lesson via New Zealand, Spain teased by Saudi Arabia

Last night proved to us that the World Cup this year is definitely not a foregone conclusion as we had dark horses crumble at the hands of minnows and favourites almost not making it past the finish line against non-qualified teams. If till now the friendlies witnessed by us were dull and dry, last night blew a breath of fresh air into proceedings as we saw some exciting comebacks and some unexpected results.

Spain 3 - 2 Saudi Arabia

david_villa.jpgIn what was one of the most thrilling World Cup warm up matches of the season, Saudi Arabia nearly pulled a rabbit out of the hat against Spain, losing 3-2 at Innsbruck, Austria. The Red fury was on the receiving end of a spirited display from The Green Falcons. Saudi Arabia took a shock lead through defender Osama Hawsawi's low header from a corner in the 17th minute, only for new Barcelona signing, David Villa to equalize with another header in the 31st minute.

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International Friendly: Algeria lose to Ireland, England take notes

The Republic of Ireland are slowly and steadily proving that they deserve to be in those finals and not France after defeating a second World Cup finalist this week. The Irish beat Algeria 3 - 0 in Dublin in a one-sided affair that saw the home team dominate from the outset. Giovanni Trapattoni helped figure out a vast number of weaknesses that the African country possesses at the back to help out fellow Italian Fabio Capello as his England team take on the Algerians in the Group Stage of the World Cup next month.

Algeria's defensive frailties led to Ireland's first goal when Paul Green headed in a set piece from Liam Lawrence at the half hour mark. The defenders didn't seem too keen to challenge for the ball as though keeping all the feistiness safe for the World Cup. Robbie Keane doubled Ireland's lead 5 minutes into the second half. Fawzi Chaouchi's feeble attempt to clear Damien Duff's cross was volleyed in by the Tottenham forward from around 20 yards out. With 5 minutes to go on the clock Robbie Keane was tripped in the box by Habib Ballaid and the Irish captain slotted comfortably past the Algerian Goalkeeper to give his team an easy win.

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