x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Teams fine-tune their squads as Euro 2012 nears

With 100 days until the start of the tournament, players had the chance to shine last night, such as Roberto Soldado who scored a hat-trick for Spain and Olivier Giroud who showed he could elevate his Ligue 1 form to the international stage for France.

France's  Olivier Giroud, left, scores against Germany's goalkeeper Tim Wiese in the friendly match. France won 2-1.
France's Olivier Giroud, left, scores against Germany's goalkeeper Tim Wiese in the friendly match. France won 2-1.

Roberto Soldado hit a hat-trick for Spain and France's Olivier Giroud boosted his Euro 2012 chances in a 2-1 win over Germany but other players unsure of their places at the tournament failed to impress in last night's friendlies across Europe.

European champions Spain thumped Venezuela 5-0, Netherlands beat England 3-2 after a flurry of late goals, Italy crashed to a 1-0 home defeat by United States and Poland drew 0-0 with Portugal in Warsaw's newly-opened stadium.

Argentina's world player of the year Lionel Messi again showed why Europe's finest nations would all love to have a player of his sheer class in their ranks with a hat-trick in a 3-1 win over Switzerland.

With 100 days to go before the tournament in Poland and Ukraine kicks off in Warsaw, teams were honing their line-ups and tactics with a number of second-string players trying to make a name for themselves and book a place in their national squads.

The biggest clash on paper was 1996 European champions Germany at home to 2000 winners France and it turned out to be the best match with Giroud's neat finish in the first half and Florent Malouda's goal settling matters. Cacau pulled one back for the hosts late on in Bremen.

"We knew that Germany were very strong offensively but we had studied a few weaknesses in the defence," Laurent Blanc, the France coach, told reporters. Montpellier's Giroud, who now has three caps and is top scorer in Ligue 1 this term, will now be in Blanc's thoughts for the competition given goals have not really flowed for Les Bleus of late.

Malouda's close-range scramble may also have calmed any doubts he had about making the Euro squad after a difficult season for Chelsea as in-form France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris enjoyed a dream first game as permanent captain.

Borussia Moenchengladbach's top scorer Marco Reus was making his fourth international appearance as an attacking midfielder but Germany, many people's favourites for June's title, flattered to deceive despite decent chances.

Spain striker Soldado was given his opportunity by David Villa's long-term injury as well as Fernando Torres's loss of form and he took it with huge gusto in the second period, adding to Andres Iniesta and David Silva's first-half strikes as well as missing a penalty.

In contrast to many sides, World Cup runners-up Netherlands played a reasonably settled team with Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder always looking composed on the ball given their personal Euro tickets are already secured. Bert van Marwijk's silky team went 2-0 up and were pegged back to 2-2 late on before Robben's second goal in stoppage time sealed victory at Wembley.

Robben's superb run and shot in the second half opened the scoring and was followed quickly by Klaas Jan Huntelaar's predatory header which left the striker and England's Chris Smalling needing extensive treatment.

England, under interim coach Stuart Pearce as the FA try to find a replacement for the departed Fabio Capello, were captained for the first time by midfielder Scott Parker and a new front line struggled to fire.

With Wayne Rooney missing the first two Euro group games through suspension and Darren Bent injured, England needed answers to their attacking quandary for June but main striker Danny Welbeck barely had a sniff against a dogged Dutch defence.

Fellow forward Daniel Sturridge, with one cap beforehand, came on for the injured Steven Gerrard in the first half and had one decent chance but the Three Lions required late strikes from Gary Cahill and Ashley Young to get back into the game.

Italy also seem to be back to square one after they lost at home to the US, Clint Dempsey grabbing a 55th-minute goal.

Given Antonio Cassano and Giuseppe Rossi are struggling to be fit for Euro 2012 and with Mario Balotelli left out on disciplinary grounds, Italy paired fringe players Alessandro Matri and Sebastian Giovinco up front but they did not threaten.

"Absolutely not," coach Cesare Prandelli told Rai Sport in Genoa when asked if his was worried by Italy's form. "I liked my team, we can have a great Euros. We were a little bit more incisive in the second half."

In other games, Euro co-hosts Ukraine prevailed 3-2 in Israel, Sweden warmed up for the tournament with a 3-1 win in Croatia, Russia beat Denmark 2-0 in Copenhagen and Ireland drew 1-1 with Czech Republic as did Greece against Belgium.

Not all the friendlies had Euro 2012 in mind. In a memorial game for late Wales manager Gary Speed, who died in November in an apparent suicide, his nation lost 1-0 at home to Costa Rica after an emotional pre-match build-up involving his family and some world famous Welsh singing.