World cup fever warms up teams

Afp May 25, 2010

LONDON: A spectacular solo strike from Glen Johnson lit up an otherwise workmanlike performance from England as Fabio Capello’s side notched up a 3-1 win over fellow World Cup qualifiers Mexico at Wembley in a friendly.

Ledley King marked his first appearance in an England shirt since 2007 with the opening goal and Peter Crouch made it 21 goals in 38 internationals as England recovered from a shaky start to claim control of their final home friendly before they head for South Africa. West Ham striker Guillermo Franco, then, responded for Mexico on the stroke of halftime but Johnson’s lovely, left-footed effort, just after the interval, ensured the encounter finished with a scoreline that was morale-boosting, if a little flattering, for the hosts.

Capello admitted Mexico had given his side problems but was happy with the evening’s workout. “Mexico is faster than us and it was not easy to win back the ball. I learned a lot about some situations on the pitch. Not only me but also the players – we have to press more to win back the ball quickly,” said the England coach. Argentina prevail over Canada Meanwhile, two-time World Cup winners Argentina also eased to a 5-0 victory over Canada in Buenos Aires for a confidence-building win ahead of flying to South Africa on Friday for the World Cup.

Even without their superstar Lionel Messi, who was rested and sat watching from the stands, the Argentinians had little trouble from one of the game’s minnows as they cruised to a fifth successive victory this year, albeit three have come against second tier opposition. Nevertheless Argentina’s unpredictable coach Diego Maradona was delighted with the performance. “This performance showed that Argentina can play with three strikers at the World Cup finals,” said the football legend-turned-coach. Portugal draw with lowly Cape Verde Portugal suffered a blow to their morale as they were held to a 0-0 draw by minnows Cape Verde, ranked 117th in the world, in another friendly in Covilha.

The 2006 World Cup semifinalists star player Cristiano Ronaldo was a peripheral figure for the first hour of the match leaving the creative play to Nani and Fabio Coentrao. However, their playmaking went to waste as Liedson da Silva missed with two headers in the 17th and 26th minutes and Nani also was guilty of missing a golden opportunity when set up by a delightful backheel by Deco. World Cup hosts South Africa received a reality check when held 1-1 by non-qualifiers Bulgaria in a warm-up match in Soweto.

Published in the Express Tribune, May 26th, 2010.


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