Argentina win delights Maradona

Pressure eases off Maradona as England and Spain win on a night of World Cup warm-ups.

Gonzalo Higuain
Argentina will face Nigeria,
Greece and South Korea in their group [AFP]

England, Spain and Argentina made positive strides in their World Cup campaigns with victories in warm-up friendlies.

Fabio Capello’s England shrugged off the recent distraction of the John Terry scandal with a double from Peter Crouch contributing towards a 3-1 win over visiting African Champions Egypt.

Argentina lifted the pressure on coach Diego Maradona with a 1-0 victory away to Germany with Gonzalo Higuain scoring the only goal in first half injury time in Munich.

Spain heaped more pressure on France coach Raymond Domenech with a 2-0 triumph in Paris.

Nothing but praise

“It was (like) a World Cup game,” Maradona said.

“The lads played a great match. I’ve nothing but praise for all of them.”

Argentina’s victory was clouded by an injury to defender Martin Demichelis, who suffered a broken cheekbone when he was hit accidentally in the face by the knee of Germany captain Michael Ballack.

In a night of friendlies, Netherlands beat United States 2-1 in Amsterdam, Uruguay were 3-1 winners in Switzerland but world champions Italy could only draw 0-0 with Cameroon in Monaco.

First-half goals from David Villa and Sergio Ramos put a dominant Spain in charge against former world champions France and their hold on the game was rarely threatened.

The hosts continued to look short on confidence after having qualified for the World Cup via a controversial playoff against Ireland and the crowd vented their frustration by whistling under-fire coach Domenech during and after the game.

“This was a very important game. To beat a world champion like France gives you confidence,” Spain captain Iker Casillas said.

Crouch double

Two goals from Peter Crouch helped England come from behind to seal victory over Egypt, who had failed to qualify for the World Cup after losing a playoff against Algeria.

After Mohammed Zidan had stunned England with a 24th minute goal, two second half goals from Crouch with a strike by Shaun Wright-Phillips in between gave Capello’s team victory after they had been booed off the Wembley pitch at half-time.

Crouch scores his second against the African Champions at Wembley [AFP]

“I said to the players to press more to win the ball back quickly and in the second half we did that,” said England coach Fabio Capello.

“Crouch is a big option for me because sometimes you can play long ball. Today we didn’t, and he played very well with one touch, two touches.

“In the second half he made the difference.”

Argentina striker Higuain staked his claim for a place in coach Diego Maradona’s starting line-up with a wonderfully-taken goal against Germany, lifting the ball over the goalkeeper before finishing from 30 yards out.

After some unimpressive displays Argentina were the better team against the Germans, who only came to life near the end.

The Dutch needed a Dirk Kuyt penalty and a deflected shot from Klaas Jan Huntelaar to ease past the Americans while in-form Diego Forlan set Uruguay on their way to a 3-1 comeback win in Switzerland.

Slovenia win

Other sides warming up for the World Cup with victories were Slovenia, who thumped Qatar 4-1, and Portugal who defeated China 2-0 in Coimbra.

Nigeria eased past Democratic Republic of Congo 5-2 while World Cup hosts South Africa fielded a weakened team at home to Namibia and needed a goal from Katlego Mphela to grab an unconvincing 1-1 draw.

Ghana lost 2-1 in Bosnia and Ivory Coast slumped to a 2-0 defeat in London against South Korea.

Lee Dong-gook and substitute Kwak Tae-hwi fired South Korea to a 2-0 victory. Brazil coach Dunga, whose team faces Ivory Coast in group play, was among several coaches in the crowd.

The Ivorians are looking for a new coach after firing Vahid Halihodzic last month and former England and Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson was also at the game along with Ciro Ferrara, formerly in charge of Juventus.

Other sides bound for the finals who failed to impress were Greece who conceded late goals to fall 2-0 at home to Senegal.

Slovakia were beaten 1-0 by Norway, Denmark lost 2-1 in Austria and Honduras slumped 2-0 in Turkey.

In other friendlies, Craig Levein celebrated his first game as Scotland manager with a 1-0 home win over Czech Republic and Sweden won 1-0 in Wales thanks to a superb volley by Johan Elmander.

Serbia outplayed Algeria 3-0 away from home with goals by Marko Pantelic, Zdravko Kuzmanovic and Zoran Tosic.

Source: News Agencies