World Champions Germany beat Spain, England secure impressive win while Argentina-Portugal failed to live up to the hype.
A busy night of international fixtures saw England record an impressive 3-1 win at Celtic Park thanks to a brace from Manchester United skipper Wayne Rooney. In the battle of the last two World Cup Winners, a late pile-driver from Real Madrid man Toni Kroos was enough to secure a 1-0 win for Germany in Vigo. The much anticipated clash between the Argentina and Portugal in Manchester failed to live up to the expectations as neither Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo nor Barcelona’s Lionel Messi were able to break the deadlock and were both subbed at the interval. Debutant left back Raphael Guerriero settled the contest with a late goal in the second half. In other games Antonio Conte continued his unbeaten start with a 1-0 win over Albania, Brazil had to come from behind to claim victory against Austria while Real Madrid defender Raphael Varane’s goal was the difference in France’s 1-0 win against Sweden.
Forget Messi vs Ronaldo, Scotland-England recaptures the spirit of 150 year old rivalry
In front of an attendance of over 50,000 in Celtic Park, England registered a 3-1 win over Scotland in a game that certainly wasn’t a friendly. An absorbing contest was what England needed after some relatively easy games against lowly opposition in their qualifying group and Roy Hodgson would have liked what he saw as his side reacted strongly in a tough contest. The match was always going to be a spiky affair given the rivalry and political climate between the two but England were on top throughout the game. Scotland played with heart but England led by Wayne Rooney, who moved closer to Bobby Charlton’s record with an impressive brace, were the better team on the night.
Neither Messi nor Ronaldo shine in drab game at Old Trafford
It was billed as the battle of two finest footballers on the planet but neither failed to impact the game. The majority of the 40,000 inside Old Trafford came to see the clash between two teams led by the two best players in the world at this moment. Chances were few and far between for both the sides in the first half as both Ronaldo and Messi lashed over after getting in good positions. The thrust went out of the match when both the captains were taken off at half-time. Amongst the predictable Mexican waves there were boos reserved for former and present Manchester City players Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero . Lorient left back Raphael Guerriero scored on his debut to settle the contest as both Tata Martino and Fernando Santos continue to rebuild confidence for their respective teams.
German efficiency once again the decisive factor
World Champions Germany came into this game against Spain on the back of three straight defeats against the La Roja with one deciding the Euro 2008 and the other in the semi-final of the World Cup 2010. The conditions did not help either team with Germany set out to keep things tight relying on the occasional long ranger while Spain had more possession of the ball but could not penetrate the stubborn defensive resistance in front of the home side. The bobbly pitch might have been a factor as debutant Kiko Casilla allowed Toni Kroos’ low shot to squeeze under him as it handed the world champions a narrow win which they barely looked like collecting.
Brazil maintain their momentum under new coach Dunga
The Selecao made it six wins in a row since the World Cup with a hard-fought win over Austria in Vienna last night. The victory was another small step on their road to redemption after their disappointing end to the World Cup campaign which will ensure the players go into the New Year with belief and self-confidence restored. On a cold and rainy night in Vienna, Brazil were unable to produce the slick football they displayed against Turkey but the narrow win did throw up a number of positives for Dunga’s men. Roberto Firmino announced his arrival in international football with a stunning winner while Thiago Silva’s assured display at the back reminded everyone of his class and composure. Dunga reclaimed control of the Selecao at a very delicate time but he has got them back on track thanks to his organizing capabilities and tactics. 2014 will be remembered for all the wrong reasons for Brazil but the New Year looks a lot brighter. Dunga deserves credit for that.
Antonio Conte’s outburst was very much expected
The former Juventus manager usually likes to thrive on a ‘him against everyone’ atmosphere and that is what he exactly did after last night’s narrow win over Albania. He slammed the media over Mario Balotelli , felt the Serie A clubs were not cooperating with the Nazionale and claimed he was waging a lone battle to restore Italy’s pride in world stage. It remains to be seen whether the clubs show more desire to collaborate with him after his controversial comments last night but Conte must be credited for bringing back the discipline which was missing from Italy’s system this summer in Brazil. They do not look that creative as a team but certainly have a solid organization at the back. He knows the journey ahead is a tough one but five wins out of his first six games will no doubt give him confidence to carry on his ‘lone battle’ in 2015.