International Friendly Roundup: Sturridge scores a stunner, Torres nets for Spain

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As we roll towards the World Cup in just two weeks’ time, teams are getting in their final tuneups to prepare their squads for international play.

Today was a big day for World Cup teams to take to the field and get in some work.  The United States takes on Turkey come Sunday, but here’s a roundup of the World Cup teams in action today:

England 3-0 Peru

Daniel Sturridge scored a stunner out of nothing and England held off Peru at Wembley. Having scored just one goal in their last three international matches at Wembley, the young Liverpool striker offered England some form of hope as they get set for a blisteringly difficult group that features Uruguay, Italy, and Costa Rica.

The game shut down after Sturridge’s goal, with paper airplanes and the wave exciting the crowd more than what was actually happening on the pitch.  Gary Cahill picked up England’s second as he headed in a corner, and that was all she wrote for Peru, as Phil Jagielka also grabbed a third.  However, the match didn’t exactly excited the masses in England.

One question mark for England is Wayne Rooney, who was relatively ineffective and overshadowed by Sturridge.  Despite Rooney’s perceived untouchable status, it may behoove Roy Hodgson to question that going forward.  Rooney has long had a reputation for underperforming for his country.

Spain 2-0 Bolivia

Fernando Torres started for Spain for the first time in over a year, and scored a penalty but missed another wide open chance a few minutes later (oh Fernando). Iniesta scored a beauty with the inside of his foot to complete the scoreline, but the match was mostly for the fringe players who are looking to impress Vicente Del Bosque.

Reports out of Spain have Juan Mata on the outside looking in, and the Manchester United star played the first 45 hoping to change those thoughts.  Gerard Deulofeu got 10 minutes of time, and David Silva got around a half-hour as well. Spain held possession for 76% of the time, yata yata, nothing else to see here, carry on.

Edin Dzeko bagged a brace against an Ivory Coast side missing plenty of key pieces.

Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 Ivory Coast

Two World Cup sides squaring off so close to the event is uncommon, but this pair of Brazil-bound squads met up in St. Louis for a warm-up.  Didier Drogba didn’t start but made the bench after recovering from minor groin surgery.

Both Toure brothers missed out, Kolo because of a case of malaria and Yaya thanks to minor surgery as well on an unspecified knock.  Other names on the Elephants’ bench include Gervinho, Seydou Doumbia, Salomon Kalou, and Wilfried Bony. None got into the match.

Star striker Edin Dzeko started for Bosnia and opened the scoring inside 20 minutes.  That wasn’t all from the Manchester City man, who doubled his total after halftime and secured his in-form status headed into the competition.

Drogba made it into the game and scored late, a fantastic sign for Ivory Coast going into their advance-able Group C alongside Colombia, Greece, and Japan.

Uruguay 1-0 Northern Ireland

With Luis Suarez still recovering from his meniscus operation, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlan were the biggest names in Uruguay’s attack tonight, but it wasn’t until Forlan’s replacement Christian Stuani broke the scoreless deadlock in the 62nd minute that the South Americans asserted their supremacy.

Northern Ireland managed 43% possession, but couldn’t get a single shot off until the 85th minute, while Uruguay peppered Roy Carroll with 17 shots, five on target. Other starters for Uruguay included Premier League duo Diego Lugano and Gaston Ramirez.

Switzerland 1-0 Jamaica

Bayer Leverkusen striker Josip Drmic fired Switzerland through with just six minutes left as the Rossocrociati staved off pre-Cup disappointment.

Drmic, at just 21 years old, Drmic was used mainly as a garbage-time sub throughout qualification, but with the World Cup approaching, he’s piggy-backed onto a 17-goal season in the Bundesliga with goals in each of the two friendlies the Swiss have played this calendar year.  Look for his name in Brazil as his country looks to maintain its #1 seeding in Group E.

Chile 3-2 Egypt

With the Chileans preparing for a World Cup the Egyptians just barely missed out on, but the Brazil-bound South Americans fell down 2-0 early to Bob Bradley’s old side thanks to Mohamed Salah and Khaled Kamar netting inside 16 minutes.

Marcelo Diaz pulled Chile one-back, but things bogged down after that and La Roja – who weremissing star midfielder Arturo Vidal – had to wait until 15 minutes after halftime for Eduardo Vargas’s equalizer.  Finally, Vargas won it for Chile with a 78th minute strike, but nonetheless the start will worry Jorge Sampaoli.

Iran 1-1 Angola

Those picking Iran to struggle mightily at the big dance had their fears worsen today as they needed a second-half goal from Karim Ansarifard to salvage a 1-1 draw with 94th-ranked Angola.

Since beating Kuwait by a goal in March, Iran has gone winless in four matches, and things aren’t looking good for them in a strong group with Argentina and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.