Mixed fortunes for European top guns

PARIS: Europe’s brightest hopes to lift the 2010 World Cup on July 11 in South Africa suffered mixed fortunes in friendly internationals on Wednesday.

European champions Spain produced an assured display to beat 2006 finalists France 2-0 — their first win in France for 42 years — and provoked the home fans into regular bouts of calling for unpopular coach Raymond Domenech to resign.

Domenech has steadfastly refused to step down on the regular occasions that the matter has been broached and has also

enjoyed the strong support of the head of the French Football Federation, but even the usually imperturbable coach sounded

a little less confident

than usual.

“Nothing is worrying me for the moment.... I am not as catastrophic as you make me out to be,” said the 58-year-old, who also took aim at the crowd for booing the players and chanting ‘ole, ole’ in tribute to the Spanish. Domenech is due to step down after the finals, but another coach whose future is uncertain Germany’s Joachim Loew was given a reality check in Munich as Argentina — coached by the ever unpredictable Diego Maradona — outclassed them to win 1-0.

Reigning World champions Italy were held to a 0-0 draw by Cameroon in a dull affair while England came from 1-0 down to beat Egypt 3-1 with Peter Crouch belying being dropped from the Spurs first team with a double.

Holland had little trouble in recording a 2-1 home victory over the United States, who are in England’s group in South Africa.

It wasn’t a great night for several of the outsiders for glory in June. Hosts South Africa struggled to a 1-1 draw against African minnows Namibia, and the hosts had to come from behind ta boot to finish the match all-square. The only bright spot was that they extended their unbeaten run since former Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira took over.

“We had control of the ball in the first half but the last ball was not good enough to score,” said Parreira, who has led Bafana Bafana to two wins and three draws since he took over from fellow Brazilian Joel Santana in November.

Fellow African finalists enjoyed mixed fortunes with Algeria slipping to a 3-0 humbling at home to Serbia and Africa Cup of Nations finalists Ghana also lost, 2-1 away at Bosnia-Hercegovina.

Ivory Coast showed they had not got over the traumatic loss to Algeria in the Africa Cup of Nations

quarter-finals putting up a limp display against South Korea in a 2-0 defeat in London — hardly an advertisement to encourage Dutch coach Guus Hiddink to agree to coach them at the finals.

Nigeria, though, were convincing 5-2 winners over Democratic Republic of Congo. Senegal will not be there to try and repeat their heroics from the 2002 finals, where they reached the quarter-finals, but they inflicted a wake-up call to South Africa-bound Greece, beating the 2004 European champions 2-0 with in-form Marseille striker Mamadou Niang getting their first.

Turkey, the team who ended Senegal’s World Cup dreams in 2002, are also absentees from this summer’s fiesta but they gave finalists Honduras a sharp lesson in finishing with a 2-0 victory in Istanbul while Norway beat Slovakia, who will be making their first appearances at the finals, 1-0.

WC friendlies Results

• Portugal 2 China 0

• Slovenia 4 Qatar 1

• Nigeria 5 Congo 2

• Bosnia-Hercegovina 2

Ghana 1

• England 3 Egypt 1

• France 0 Spain 2

• Holland 2 United States 1

• Italy 0 Cameroon 0

• Germany 0 Argentina 1

• Switzerland 1 Uruguay 3

• Algeria 0 Serbia 3

• South Africa 1 Namibia 1

• Turkey 2 Honduras 0

• Athletic Bilbao (ESP) 1 Paraguay 3

• Slovakia 0 Norway 1

• Greece 0 Senegal 2

• Ivory Coast 0 S Korea 2

• Mexico 2 New Zealand 0

Int’l friendlies

• Poland 2 Bulgaria 0

• Scotland 1 Czech 0

• Belgium 0 Croatia 1

• Albania 1 N Ireland 0

• Wales 0 Sweden 1

• Macedonia 2

Montenegro 1

• Romania 0 Israel 2

• Hungary 1 Russia 1

• Angola 1 Latvia 1

• Moldova 1 Kazakhstan 0

• Cyprus 0 Iceland 0

• Belarus 3 Armenia 1

• Georgia 2 Estonia 1

• Guatemala 2 El Salvador 1