International Friendly Wrap: Suarez Scores, Brazil Lose, Altidore Bags 3
The mid-August FIFA date might be a point of contention for many club managers, but despite the competitive pointlessness of many of the matches, several of them have produced moments of pure entertainment that will remain on the highlight reels for days.
Wednesday’s fixtures were no exception.
From Japan—where Luis Suarez found the back of the net against the Blue Samurai—to Ecuador—where Spain won 2-0 on an emotional afternoon in Guayaquil, some of world football’s most famous players and high-profile sides were involved in compelling midweek matches.
Here we look at four that especially caught the eye.
London: England 3-2 Scotland
One of Wednesday’s most highly anticipated friendlies was contested between England and Scotland—two sides that hadn’t faced each other since 1999.
James Morrison gave the visiting Scots a 1-0 lead in only the 11th minute when his effort following a corner found its way past several England players, including goalkeeper Joe Hart.
It took England some time to settle down on their home patch of Wembley Stadium, but by the half-hour mark they had restored level terms. Theo Walcott accepted Tom Cleverley’s pass, cut inside his marker and beat Allan McGregor inside the near post.
But Scotland were back in front just four minutes after the restart thanks to a venomous drive by Kenny Miller, who had made England defender Gary Cahill look foolish before teeing up his left-footed shot.
Danny Welbeck responded almost immediately for England, however, finding the back of the net in the 53rd minute after getting on the end of a Steven Gerrard free kick.
From there the stage was set for someone to be the hero, and that proved to be Rickie Lambert, who had come on the field only two minutes before scoring.
In the 70th minute and with his first touch of the ball at international level, the Southampton striker headed Leighton Baines’ well-placed ball past McGregor for the winner.
Guayaquil: Ecuador 0-2 Spain
This match was less about an international test and more to remember deceased Ecuador striker Christian “Chucho” Benitez and to celebrate his tragically brief career.
In the 11th minute, the match was halted to honour Benitez, who passed away last month at the age of 27 following complications related to cardiac arrest.
Twelve minutes later, following a decent chance for Felipe Caicedo, Spain were in front thanks to Alvaro Negredo. The Manchester City forward benefited from a cultured piece of buildup play from Santi Cazorla that also involved David Silva.
Cazorla got on the scoresheet as well in the 63rd minute following a neat exchange with Cristian Tello.
Basel: Switzerland 1-0 Brazil
Brazil were handed a 1-0 defeat in their first match since beating Spain to win the Confederations Cup. They were done in by a Dani Alves own goal shortly after the restart in a Wednesday friendly against Switzerland.
Following an action-packed first half that saw Hulk miss a hatful of chances, Paulinho hit the bar and Neymar miss from in close, the Barcelona right-back accidentally put the ball past goalkeeper Jefferson as Switzerland forward Haris Seferovic bore down on him.
Incidentally, Brazilian left-back Marcelo nearly beat Jefferson with another embarrassing own goal just four minutes later when Seferovic again caused all sorts of trouble in front of the Botafogo goalkeeper.
From there, Switzerland were largely in control as Brazil boss Luiz Felipe Scolari made a handful of second-half changes. But there was still a late opportunity for Neymar, who just could not turn Jo’s cross into goal with five minutes left on the clock.
Sarajevo: Bosnia-Herzegovina 3-4 United States
Jozy Altidore bagged a hat-trick, and Eddie Johnson also found the back of the net as a second-half rush of goals helped the United States turn a 2-0 deficit against Bosnia-Herzegovina into a fascinating 4-3 win in Sarajevo.
The hosts, who look a good bet to gain automatic qualification to the 2014 World Cup, got off the mark after just eight minutes through Edin Dzeko. On the stroke of half-an-hour, Vedad Ibisevic doubled the advantage with a header from a corner conceded by Geoff Cameron.
Bosnia-Herzegovina took the two-goal lead into the break, but Johnson cut the deficit in half in the 55th minute following a neat touch by Altidore, who had done well to control Michael Bradley’s arching ball.
From there, it was the Altidore show. The newly signed Sunderland striker restored level terms only four minutes later and then completed his hat-trick with a double-salvo in the final five minutes. He first scored on a spectacular free kick and then beat the goalkeeper from in close following another fine ball from Bradley.
Dzeko’s second of the night made things close in the 90th minute, but this night was all about Altidore.