Bale's Genius and the Greatest Moments from This Week's International Friendlies

Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistMarch 5, 2014

Bale's Genius and the Greatest Moments from This Week's International Friendlies

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    Stu Forster/Getty Images

    Gareth Bale won't be at this summer's World Cup—and his chances of ever appearing at the tournament are quite slim—but he certainly put on a world-class performance in Wales' 3-1 win over Iceland on Wednesday. 

    Elsewhere during a busy international week, there were bog victories for Brazil and Japan, while the Netherlands and the USA were humbled by defeat. 

    Here are the best moments from this week's matches.

Daniel Sturridge Saved England's (Danish) Bacon at Wembley

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    Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

    It wasn't exactly a thrilling encounter, but England defeated Denmark on Wednesday courtesy of a late Daniel Sturridge header. 

    Along with the Liverpool striker, there were also impressive performances from Steven Gerrard and Adam Lallana, the latter of whom will surely now get some time on the field in Brazil. 

    After the game, Denmark manager Morten Olsen scorned the Three Lions, with The Mirror quoting him as saying, "I wish you good luck in the World Cup. You need it." Ouch. 

Fernandinho Scored a Golazo in South Africa

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    Brazil's preparations for the summer went smoothly in Johannesburg as they put five unanswered goals past South Africa.

    Neymar bagged a hat-trick, but the most impressive goal of the lot was Brazil's fourth, a stunning long-range effort from Fernandinho.

    One of the best moments of the game came after the final whistle when a young pitch invader was given star treatment by the Selecao

Ukraine Dismantled the USMNT in Cyprus

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    Ukraine's controversial friendly with USA went ahead, albeit in Cyprus, but Jurgen Klinsmann may have left wishing it was postponed.

    Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic got the goals, which were both the result of dreadful defending. 

    The USMNT will need to go back to the drawing board to stand a chance of surviving the World Cup's Group of Death. 

Spain Brought the Pain to Italy

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    One of the most enticing friendlies of the week ended up being one of the least entertaining, as a 63rd-minute goal from Pedro made the difference between Spain and Italy.

    Debutante Diego Costa—who has started for two separate countries in matches against Italy in the space of a year—had a fairly underwhelming match. That suggests he might not be the threat to Brazil's World Cup chances that many media sources have suggested

The Netherlands Were Sunk by Two Brilliant French Goals

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    The other big-name friendly of the week, France versus the Netherlands, was a much more interesting affair.

    Both teams looked strong, but Les Bleus definitely had the edge at the Stade de France. Karim Benzema scored a beautiful volley in the 32nd minute, and Paris Saint-Germain's Blaise Matuidi added another lovely aerial strike nine minutes later, which was his first for his country. 

Lionel Messi Felt Unwell During Argentina's Draw with Romania

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    While Brazil were rampant in South Africa, their South American rivals, Argentina, were a little underwhelming in Bucharest, earning a 0-0 draw with Romania.

    Leo Messi was marked out of the game, but the Albiceleste captain raised eyebrows in the eighth minute of the match when he threw up on the field.

    Messi is making quite a habit of losing his lunch mid-match, having done the same thing in an Argentina match in Bolivia, the 2011 Spanish Super Cup final and a Barcelona league match with Levante. 

Japan Took 17 Minutes to Score Four Goals Against New Zealand

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    Down in the AFC, Japan took a 4-0 lead over New Zealand after just 17 minutes of play. Among the scorers was Shinji Kagawa, who converted a penalty for his first national team goal in six months. The Manchester United midfielder also set up Shinji Okazaki for the first goal after four minutes. 

    The Kiwis pulled two back as Japan eased their foot off of the accelerator later in the match, but it was not enough for a full-scale fightback, with the game ending 4-2. 

Welsh Fans Were Treated to the Gareth Bale Show

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    Wales made easy work of Iceland in a 3-1 victory at Cardiff City Stadium thanks in part to a magnificent display from Gareth Bale. 

    The Real Madrid star set up Wales' first two goals and showed a stunning display of skill in the 70th minute to cap off the evening with a fantastic goal. 

    Bale sprinted past Solvi Ottesen—even though he was pushed off the field by the defender—and cut inside to produce a classy left-footed shot. 

    When he was substituted two minutes later, he received a rousing standing ovation. 

     

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