Weekend International Roundup: Brazil vs. Netherlands, USA vs. Spain
Many of the domestic seasons only just ended, but football is certainly not over yet. There were two star-studded friendly matches on Saturday before we football fans have to say goodbye to our favorite players for a couple months.
Netherlands visited Brazil—two teams full of world class footballers—in a match many Brazil fans were hoping would be a small payback for the Dutch side knocking out the Selecao last summer in South Africa.
Meanwhile in Boston, world champions Spain were in town to face Team USA, the team that beat Spain 2-0 in the Confederations Cup in 2009, thereby ending the Spaniard's 35-match unbeaten streak and 15-game winning streak. It was Team USA's final match before the Gold Cup starts on Tuesday.
Let's see how it all unfolded.
Brazil 0-0 Netherlands
Well, this was a bit disappointing. Two of the best sides in the world, both famous for flashy, entertaining football created plenty of chances each, but neither side could find the back of the net.
To be fair, so many of these players only just finished long, grueling season with their clubs, so it's understandable that both teams were a little flat.
Manchester United target Wesley Sneijder was a notable omission for the Dutch side, but it still contained the likes of Ibrahim Afellay, Nigel de Jong, Robin van Persie, Dirk Kuyt and Arjen Robben, with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar coming off the bench.
Brazil meanwhile was anchored as always by Cesar, Lucio and Dani Alves at the back with Ramires and Lucas in midfield. Up front were Robinho and Neymar, who is on the transfer wish lists of Europe's top sides this summer.
Everyone's favorite tough tackler de Jong put in another tough tackle in the early minutes, leaving Ramires to be stretchered off, though he would return a few minutes later. Van Persie scored almost at will for Arsenal in the second half of the season, but the Dutchman missed several chances he normally wouldn't in the first half.
Though they were the more dominant side in the second half, luck wasn't on Brazil's side as Robinho saw his effort cleared off the goal line by Joris Mathijsen, and the final touch just wasn't there for many of the players.
It was a feisty match, and Brazil's frustration in not scoring showed in their discipline as five players received yellow cards, and Ramires received a second for a clumsy challenge late in the game. Substitute Eljero Elia almost stole a win for the visitors, but the ever-present Lucio was there to make the clearance.
Brazil still has a ways to go if they hope to win the World Cup as hosts in 2014, but they certainly have plenty of young talent to do it with. Netherlands has plenty of youth, experience and talent, but they need to figure out how to put it all together against the world's best.
USA 0-4 Spain
Unlike Brazil, Spain got their payback. The world champions looked exactly that, and the U.S. looked just like the rag-tag bunch of inexperienced youngsters they were.
Five of Spain's starting lineup started in the World Cup Final last summer, while for the U.S., the likes of captain Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan were all missing. The U.S. defense especially looked confused and was often caught ball watching.
Spain should have gone ahead early on but for the linesman who called Alvaro Arbeloa offside, despite the Spain left back being at least a yard on side.
Alvaro Negredo of Sevilla then chipped a great shot over Tim Howard's head and was unlucky it only clipped the bar before Eric Lichaj got the ball to safety.
It only took until the 28th minute when Villarreal's Santi Cazorla, who wasn't in the World Cup squad, passed the ball into the net when he was left unmarked inside the 18-yard box. Just a few minutes later, Negredo rather easily got ahead of the USA's young center back Tim Ream and this time hit the back of the net.
Cazorla added his second in the 41st minute when he was one of two unmarked Spanish players along with seven U.S. players in the box.
Gerard Pique made a mistake at the back, giving Robbie Rogers a good look at goal, but his tame shot went wide of Pepe Reina's goal.
Dempsey, Bradley and Steve Cherundolo all came on for the second half and were able to keep hold of the ball a bit better, but Spain brought on Andres Iniesta, Joan Capdevila and Fernando Torres, and even the Chelsea striker, who has looked hopeless since last summer's World Cup, got in on the scoring.
Torres still did not look like the player he was the last time these team's played though. In 2009, Torres had several excellent shots just as excellently saved by Howard, but Saturday, he missed one one-on-one chance that he used to put away easily shortly after coming on. When his goal came in the 73rd minute, it hit the post and luckily bounced into the net instead of away from it. The striker's relieved look showed just how grateful he is for any goal these days.
There's something to be said for Bob Bradley testing his youngsters and trusting them enough to play them against the world champions, and Team USA knows the important tests start Tuesday when they face Canada in the Gold Cup.
Spain meanwhile showed no signs of animosity between the Barcelona and Real Madrid players who make up a majority of the squad, and they also showed that the squad that won it all in South Africa was just the beginning.
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