Saturday’s pre-Euro 2012 friendlies: Germans, Dutch stumble; Spain’s understudies cruise

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Germany and the Netherlands were handed surprising Saturday losses, but don’t read too much into the day’s friendlies. For most of these teams, Saturday’s games represented the first big step in preparing for the first full week of June (when Euro 2012 kicks off). The results are less important than the process, which is about bringing the team together, answering questions about the squad, and identifying what tools a coach has at his disposal.

Sometimes, that involves giving up five goals to a team that failed to make Euro 2012. At least Joachim Löw has some answers.

Spain 2-0 Serbia

SPA: Adrían Lopez (64′), Santi Cazorla p.g. (74′)

It was quite a debut for Adrían Lopez, a player that was on the outside looking in before today’s game. In his Spain debut, the Atletico Madrid attacker scored the winner and created the clincher (being hauled down by Branislav Ivanovic, earning a penalty kick).

Unfortunately, it might not matter.

“We’ve got the team decided on, more or less,” Spain head coach Vicente del Bosque told reportes after the match.

Did a team decided on before the match include Adrían? Probably not. We’ll see if del Bosque changes his mind.

Switzerland 5-3 Germany

SWI: Eren Derdiyok (21′, 23′, 50′), Stephan Lichtsteiner (67′), Admir Mehmedi (77′)
GER: Mats Hummels (45′), Andre Schurrle (64′), Marco Reus (72′)

Bayern Munich’s players were given the day off, leaving Joachim Löw to piece together a team absent most of his starters. The result was Switzerland’s first win over Germany since 1956.

How much should fans read into the result? Not much. It’s the first game of a process that’s supposed to prepare the favorites for Euro 2012. Today, Löw found out his starters are very important – not exactly the most mind-blowing of revelations.

Netherlands 1-2 Bulgaria

NET: Robin van Persie (45′)
BUL: Ivelin Popov p.g. (50′), Ilijan Mitsanski (90′)

Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk tried playing Klass-Jan Huntelaar with Robin van Persie. The Schalke forward (who led the German league is goals) normally has no place in the Netherlands’ starting lineup. Today, he started, with mixed results. He didn’t score, but also didn’t keep van Persie off the scoresheet. Still, only one goal at home against Bulgaria will be disappointing, as will the loss.

Norway 0-1 England

ENG: Ashley Young (9′)

Ashley Young tore Fulham defender Brede Hangeland apart for an early goal, all a relatively conservative Roy Hodgson selected needed in their new manager’s debut. No Chelsea players made the starting XI, so although Steven Gerrard started in midfield (and not in support of the striker, as had been speculated), it remains to be seen how Hodgson will use his captain once Frank Lampard returns.

Portugal 0-0 Macedonia

Since irony doesn’t come off well in type, I’ll be more blunt than I’d otherwise like: Portugal failing to score is the least surprising thing that’s happened today.

Denmark 1-3 Brazil

BRA: Hulk (8′, 40′), Niki Zimling o.g. (13′)
DEN: Bendtner (71′)

Yikes. Brazil didn’t pick their big guns and still were up three on Denmark by intermission. Morten Olsen’s usually well-prepared team was surprisingly error prone. Denmark has a chance to play spoiler in Group B, but not like this.

Republic of Ireland 1-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina

IRE: Shane Long (78′)

The score flatters Bosnia and Herzegovina, but the bigger news comes on the injury front. Keith Fahey left this game with a groin injury and has since been ruled out of Euro 2012.

Poland 1-0 Slovakia

POL: Damien Pequis (30′)

For a co-host with low expectations who hasn’t had many competitive matches (being allowed to skip qualifying), you take confidence where you can get it. Pequis’ first half header gave Poland the win over a decent team, even if Slovakia failed to qualify for this summer’s finals.

Czech Republic 2-1 Israel

CZE: Milan Baros p.g. (17′), David Lafata (90′)
ISR: Etey Shechter (45′)

A late goal saved the Czechs mild blushes in a game that tells us little about their ability to come out of Group A. The weakest of Euro 2012’s quartets, Group A will allow the Czech Republic a route into the quarters. Today, we got little indication they’re ready to use it.

Greece 1-1 Slovenia

GRE: Vassilis Torosidis (8′)
SLO: Jasmin Kurtic (87′)

See Czech Republic (above), re: Greece, who are also in Group A.

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