International friendly roundup: Top teams continue to struggle as Germany, France both draw

1 Comment

Already this weekend Portugal struggled with Greece, Russia drew Norway, Italy finished scoreless with Ireland, Colombia drew Senegal, and Chile needed a miraculous comeback to beat Egypt.

For many countries expecting to make serious noise at the World Cup, not everything is going as planned in the run-up to the competition.

Today, more teams faltered as Germany drew with Cameroon and France was held by Paraguay.

Here’s a roundup of all the international friendlies today:

Germany 2-2 Cameroon

Young Erik Durm received glowing reports with Joachim Löw still to name his final 23 for Germany, but the rest of the squad left much to be desired as their central midfield has suddenly become a huge problem for the European powerhouses.

Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira are both below 100% physically, and it showed as those two struggled to cover for defenders. In addition, it’s affecting their attack. “We seem to need a lot of chances to score,” Löw said after the match.

Mesut Ozil was also not effective in the attack, and was replaced by Lukas Podolski for the second half.

Samuel Eto’o scored and poked fun at Jose Mourinho with his celebration, while Thomas Mueller and Andre Schurrle bagged goals for Germany. All the goals came in the second half within 16 minutes of one another, as Cameroon’s Eric Maxim Chupo-Moting rounded out the scoring.

This result, alongside their last match – a 0-0 draw with Poland – should give Germany fans some cause for worry heading into Brazil.

source: AP
Despite their inability to finish on the day, Loic Remy and Olivier Giroud are developing a fearsome strike partnership for France.

France 1-1 Paraguay

A pair of goals in the final 10 minutes proved the only goals as France dominated Paraguay but could only muster the draw. Olivier Giroud and Loic Remy were bright in combination, setting each other up and proving reason for Group E to fear their pairing.

However, despite Real Sociedad striker Antoine Griezmann breaking through for his first international goal on just his third cap, the hosts conceded late Victor Cacares equalized with a set-piece header to send the French home disappointed.

France were rocked before the match by news that Franck Ribery could potentially miss the World Cup with a back injury, but Didier Deschamps looked to ease those fears saying the injury is not as serious as the media made it out to be.

Griezmann has taken Ribery’s place on the wing and performed well, so if it turns out Bayern Munich’s star is unable to go, France shouldn’t be too downtrodden.

Belgium 2-0 Sweden

One team that did take care of business was Belgium, who picked up goals from expected sources Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard en route to a 2-0 victory over an Ibrahimovic-less Sweden.

Lukaku bagged a howitzer into the top corner, a beauty of a goal, while Hazard’s was of a lower degree of difficulty after a beautiful flick by Kevin de Bruyne.unlocked the Sweden defense, and Hazard finished the chance in space.

Chelsea’s Lukaku is in outstanding form, coming off a brilliant season with Everton and scoring a hat trick against Luxembourg last Monday.

Honduras 2-4 Israel

Yet another World Cup team with a sub-par performance, Honduras found themselves fighting from behind all match, and a cracking goal from Roger Espinoza wasn’t enough to help Honduras feel any better about giving up four to Israel.

Eran Zehavi started things out for Israel, and they also got goals from Gil Vermouth, Omer Damari, and an own goal from Maynor Figueroa. Carlos Costly rounded things out for Honduras.

Serie A: Juve keep winning to remain 1 point back of Napoli

Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TURIN, Italy (AP) Juventus closed the gap on Serie A leader Napoli back to just one point as the six-time defending champion eased past Genoa 1-0 on Monday.

Douglas Costa scored in the 16th minute, the first conceded by Genoa in five league matches. It was a less than convincing performance from Juventus but it was never really troubled, as goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny – standing in for the still-injured Gianluigi Buffon – was little more than a spectator.

“What was important was to win,” Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri said. “At the end there was a bit of nervousness because we were lacking in energy a bit.

“We could have finished off the match in the first half, and again with a couple of occasions after the break. We didn’t manage to so compliments to Genoa.”

The battle for the Serie A title is shaping into a two-horse race. Juventus moved 10 points clear of third-placed Lazio, although the capital side has a match in hand.

“The season is still long and all those who are behind us can still get back into the race,” Allegri said. “It was important to stay in Napoli’s slipstream.”

Juventus needed to win after Napoli beat Atalanta 1-0 on Sunday.

Allegri’s side started brightly and had an early chance to take the lead but Genoa goalkeeper Mattia Perin did well to keep out a free kick from specialist Miralem Panic.

However, it did not take much longer to strike. Douglas Costa passed out left to Mario Mandzukic, who played a delightful return ball for the Brazil midfielder to slot into the bottom left corner.

League Cup semi: Man City take 2-1 lead into 2nd leg vs. Bristol

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Manchester City can move one step closer on Tuesday to claiming their first of four potential trophies this season, when Pep Guardiola‘s men take on Bristol City in the second leg of the League Cup semifinal.

[ MORE: Monday’s transfer rumor roundup | Sunday | Friday ]

After coming back to beat the Robins in the first leg at home, Man City must now go on the road and take care of business to reach the Feb. 25 final at Wembley Stadium. As he has done so many times — and so famously — in the sky blue of City, Sergio Aguero grabbed the late winner (91st minute — WATCH HERE) 14 days ago.

For a few not-so-insignificant periods of the game, Bristol were very much the aggressors and appeared more likely to make the score 2-0 than for City to get back to 1-1. Bobby Reid converted from the penalty spot in the 44th minute after her was brought down under John Stones‘ wild, sliding tackle. Kevin De Bruyne leveled things up 10 minutes into the second half, setting the stage for Aguero’s late heroics.

[ MORE: Alexis-for-Mkhi swap complete | De Bruyne’s new contract ]

Since the first leg on Jan. 9, City have failed in their bid to finish the PL season with an unbeaten record before bouncing back to beat Newcastle United on the weekend, courtesy of a hat trick from Aguero — Guardiola quotes, from Sport24:

“I said many times it was going to happen, we can lose, so (it is) important the reaction we have. Still we have 42 points to play (for). It is 14 games. It is a lot of games to play and difficult games like Saturday and like Liverpool. It is important to show the team is still there but I don’t have the feeling we give up.

“We want to go through to the final in the (League) Cup and the FA Cup, so (we have) a lot of games but I think the people have the desire to keep going, to keep going, to keep going.”

[ MORE: One dream January signing for each top-six side ]

Bristol, meanwhile, have fallen on hard times: it’s been nearly a month (Boxing Day, to be specific — five losses, one draw) since Lee Johnson’s side last won a game in any competition, and they’ve fallen from second to fifth in the Championship table — Johnson quotes, from the Guardian:

“We don’t want to be brave losers, we want to compete to win. It’s up to the players to be focused and tactically aware, and who knows what will happen if we can show the same quality as we have shown in the previous rounds?

“We have to make sure we’re really bold. If you’re going to deliver a corner, do it like you mean it. I’d rather fail bold than fail timid. We know we have to score. I hope Pep picks his absolute best team and we can give them a right go. I’m not sure you could go and play an under-23 side against us at the moment and I think he’ll know that.”

The winner of Arsenal versus Chelsea (0-0 after the first leg) awaits in the final.

The 2 Robbies: Alexis-Mkhitaryan Swap Becomes Reality

Photo by Michael Steele/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Robbie Earle and Robbie Mustoe react to the Alexis Sanchez-Henrikh Mkhitaryan swap deal between Arsenal and Manchester United finally becoming reality (0:20), Swansea’s stunning 1-0 victory over Liverpool (9:20), Southampton’s much-needed draw with Spurs (22:30) and Watford’s decision to part ways with Marco Silva (36:20). The gents end the show sharing their memories of the late English striker, Cyrille Regis (39:45).

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Inter Milan sign Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MILAN (AP) Inter Milan completed the signing of Barcelona midfielder Rafinha on loan until the end of the season, with a view to a permanent move.

Inter can sign the Brazil international permanently for $43 million plus $3.7 million in bonuses, and said on Monday that option “must be taken up before the end of the season.”

Rafinha, who was born in Sao Paulo, had been at Barcelona since 2006, when he joined its youth team. He spent the 2013-14 season on loan at Celta Vigo.

After nine months out after surgery on his right knee, he made his first appearance of the season last week as a late substitute in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey defeat at Espanyol.

“It’s an important stage in my life,” he said, “and I had a lot of desire to approach this new phase in my career.”

Inter has slipped to fourth in Serie A, 11 points behind leader Napoli.

It could slip out of the Champions League places if Roma wins its match in hand on Wednesday.

“I hope to play in as many matches as possible and help the team to reach our objective which is Champions League qualification,” Rafinha said.