England 3 – 1 Egypt
A second half rally by England secured the victory with a brace from Peter Crouch and a goal for Shaun Wright-Philips. Dortmund striker Mohamed Zidan had opened the scoring with a very well taken goal, midway through the first half. England had struggled until changes in the 2nd half gave the team new impetuous. Crouch replaced Defoe whose partnership with Rooney looked lacklustre and ineffective. Carrick and Milner did well when they came on, and Wright Philips has seemingly overtaken Walcott in the pecking order for the right midfield position.
England’s 4-4-2 was outdone in the first half by Egypts 3-5-2. England’s lack of width especially playing Gerrard in the left midfield role and the cautious nature of both England’s full backs meant Egypt’s back 3 was never really stretched and could deal with the 2 up front. Barry also had to cover Gerrard’s wandering at times, going to out wide to help Baines. The 2nd half brought a tactical change with Crouch providing the emphasis for the attack and Baines getting forward a lot more. Milner moving out to the left also created a lot more space. Carrick sitting in front of the defence gave Barry a much more free reign and he responded setting up the first goal. It looks like Robert Green will be Capello’s number one in goal after a faultless performance but one worry which hasn’t gone away is at centre back, where Matthew Upson was unconvincing. His slip led to Egypts goal and he looked very nervous and hesitant. If Rio isn’t fit, what will England do?
France 0 – 2 Spain
Spain were in imperious form to see off France, dominating the game. Goals from David Villa (37 in 55!!!) and Ramos in the first half were more than enough. Spain dominated possession with Iniesta and Fabregas in midfield, not creating too many chances but controlling the game. A second half cameo from Jesus Navas was by all accounts very impressive, giving both Evra and Sagna the runaround more than once. If he can bear being away from Seville for a few months then he’ll be on the plane. Spain should go into the world cup as clear favourites. They have a settled squad, full of quality in every position. France on the other hand under Domenech have not changed much at all. Henry was booed by the home crowd even before Spain took the lead. The onus will be on Franck Ribery to try and inspire a group of players who just don’t seem up for it.
Germany 0 – 1 Argentina
A surprise result given the recent world cup qualifying campaigns of both teams. Argentina under Maradona have had little consistency in results and team selection. Higuain continued his hot goalscoring form with the only goal of the game. Another impressive performer was Benfica winger Di Maria who went past German defenders with ease and will be pushing for a place in the starting XI on a regular basis. Argentina definitely have the players to go far in the WC, but can Maradona get the best out of them? Is he a crazed genius or just plain crazy?
Germany’s problems off the pitch with the furore over Joachim Löw’s new contract has seemingly affected them on it. What is weird is that Low’s contract ends on the 30th June 2010, half way through the world cup. I still expect Germany to be a force in South Africa, they always turn up for tournaments.
Read more about the Bierhoff / German FA situation here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/feb/08/germany-joachim-jogi-low-contract