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Int’l friendlies: Germany, Iceland lose late; Ireland tops USMNT

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With the 2018 World Cup just a dozen days away from kicking off, 32 nations are will put more thought and care into the next two weeks’ worth of friendlies than at any other point during the four-year cycle.

[ MORE: England top Nigeria on goals scored by Kane, Cahill ]

A roundup of Saturday’s friendly action involving World Cup-bound sides, plus the U.S. men’s national team…

Austria 2-1 Germany

The defending world champions suffered defeat in their next-to-last tune-up before heading to Russia, 2-1 at the hands of neighboring Austria.

Mesut Ozil put the visitors ahead after 11 minutes, deftly curling a left-footed strike inside the far post from 15 yards out, but a pair of second-half goals, scored by Martin Hinteregger and Alessandro Schopf, overturned the deficit and kept Joachim Loew’s side winless in 2018 (two losses, one draw).

For of the Germans’ front-six (everyone but Ozil and Nils Petersen) had been subbed off before Schopf’s winner, as Loew made wholesale changes in order to keep starters fresh and the backups sharp.

Ireland 2-1 USA — FULL RECAP

After going ahead — completely against the run of play — through Bobby Wood’s close-range finish just before halftime, interim head coach Dave Sarachan’s Yanks through their lead away and were beaten by a 90th-minute winner scored by Alan Judge. Bill Hamid gaffe all but gifted the Irish their equalizer just before the half-hour mark, and Matt Miazga was badly beaten in the build-up to the winner.

Iceland 2-3 Norway

Much like Germany, Iceland made sweeping substitutions throughout the second half of Saturday’s friendly against Norway, and in the end it proved their undoing as the scoreline went from 1-1 to 3-2 during a 15-minute period late in the second half, thanks to some Premier League flavor.

Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson put Iceland ahead with his 19th international goal in the 70th minute, but Bournemouth’s Joshua King equalized 10 minute later and Crystal Palace’s Alexander Sorloth grabbed the winner in the 85th.

Elsewhere in int’l friendlies

England 2-1 Nigeria — FULL RECAP
Belgium 0-0 Portugal — MORE
Sweden 0-0 Denmark
Mexico vs. Scotland — 8 p.m. ET
Honduras vs. El Salvador — 8 p.m. ET

Russia slumps to 1-0 defeat in Austria for 3rd straight loss

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INNSBRUCK, Austria (AP) World Cup host Russia slumped to a 1-0 defeat in a friendly against Austria on Wednesday, extending its winless streak to six matches.

[ MORE: Newcastle signs Dubravka ]

Russia has lost all three games in 2018 after defeats to Brazil and France in March, and has not won a game since beating South Korea in October.

Austria winger Marko Arnautovic set up midfielder Alessandro Schoepf for the only goal in the 28th minute, giving coach Franco Foda his fourth win from four matches since taking over from Marcel Koller in November after the team failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Russia plays Turkey in Moscow on Tuesday in its final warmup game before opening the World Cup against Saudi Arabia on June 14.

Brazil to play Austria in final warmup game for World Cup

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VIENNA (AP) The Austrian soccer federation says Brazil will play its final warmup game for the World Cup against Austria on June 10, a week before the five-time world champions take on Switzerland in their Group E opener.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of friendly ]

The match will be played in Vienna at Ernst Happel Stadium, the same venue where both teams last met in a 2014 friendly, which Brazil won 2-1.

Brazil has further build-up games against World Cup host Russia (March 23), world champion Germany (March 27) and Croatia (June 3) ahead of the June 14-July 15 tournament, where it also meets Costa Rica and Serbia in the group stage.

Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup but will also play friendlies against Russia on May 30 and Germany on June 2.

UEFA wrap: Spain clinches, Iceland grabs control

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There were certainly surprises in UEFA on Friday.

Serbia opened the door to Group D’s automatic spot, while Spain clinched the 11th berth in Russia thanks to another big win and a shocking draw between Italy and Macedonia.

[ MORE: U-17 World Cup Day 1 roundup ]

Wales and the Republic of Ireland found new leases on automatic qualifying life, while Group I remains quite murky.


GROUP D

Georgia 0-1 WalesRECAP

Tom Lawrence of Derby County stepped up with a goal in the absence of Gareth Bale, as Wales made sure to put pressure on Serbia with the first result of the day.

Austria 3-2 Serbia

Crystal Palace man Luka Milivojevic scored in the 11th minute to put Serbia on the precipice of Russia, but Guido Burgstaller knotted it up 14 minutes later.

It stayed 1-1 until Stoke City’s Marko Arnautovic scored only to find an answer for Serbia in the form of Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic.

Yet Louis Schaub scored just before stoppage time to provide an intriguing final day to qualifying.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Moldova

Daryl Murphy scored twice in the first 19 minutes to set up a massive final match at Wales on Monday

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Wales vs. Ireland
Serbia vs. Georgia
Moldova vs. Austria

The read: Serbia can still advance automatically by holding serve against Georgia, but a draw would open the door to Wales or Ireland and Georgia proved no pushover for Wales on Friday. The Welsh can ensure no worse than second at home by beating Ireland, while either winner would pass a losing Serbia.


GROUP G

Italy 1-1 Macedonia

Giorgio Chiellini darted into the heart of the six to pass home a goal which sealed Italy’s place in the playoffs, though it was Aleksandar Trajkovski’s 78th minute goal which assured the Italians would not catch Spain.

Spain 3-0 Albania

Rodrigo, Isco, and Thiago Alcantara all scored before the match was a half-hour old to stylishly insure a spot in Russia.

Liechtenstein 0-1 Israel

Eitan Tibi’s 21st minute goal was the lone marker.

Scenarios: Spain wins group. Italy will head to the playoffs. Imagine, as it stands, the possibility of Italy vs. Portugal over two legs for a World Cup berth.


GROUP I

Turkey 0-3 Iceland

Johann Gudmundsson (Burnley), Birkir Bjarnason (Aston Villa), and Kari Arnarson (Aberdeen) scored to banish Turkey from qualification and put Iceland in the driver’s seat for a trip to Russia.

Kosovo 0-2 Ukraine

It was a second half own goal that kept Ukraine’s World Cup hopes alive, and set up a critical final day between Ukraine and Croatia in Kiev.

Croatia 1-1 Finland

Mario Mandzukic broke through in the 57th minute, but Pyry Soiri scored in stoppage time to score a fine result for Croatia and put Iceland in the Group I driver’s seat.

Matches and scenarios:

Monday
Ukraine vs. Croatia
Iceland vs. Kosovo
Finland vs. Turkey

The read: Iceland is through to Russia with a win. There are other scenarios to send Iceland through, including with a loss (That would require a Ukraine-Croatia draw).

Croatia can advance to Russia with a win and an Iceland draw or loss, and would currently finish second if it draws Ukraine.

Ukraine can finish first if it beats Croatia and Iceland loses to Kosovo, or if Iceland draws and Ukraine beats Croatia by more than a goal. Other scenarios exist, but are more complicated.

Turkey is now out.

Poor qualification means Austria coach Koller is out

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The Austrian federation will not renew the contract of national team coach Marcel Koller, it announced on Friday.

Austria, while mathematically still alive, will almost certainly fail to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. They have won just one of their last six World Cup qualification matches, a 2-0 win against Group D basement-dwellers Moldova. They harshly fell to Serbia, Wales, and Republic of Ireland all by a single goal. The backbreaking result for Koller was a 1-1 draw against lowly Georgia coming 10 days prior to the announcement.

The 56-year-old Swiss will coach the final two games of World Cup qualifying the upcoming international break before the expiry of his contract. He had been in charge since 2011, owning a six-year period of stability with the country not seen since Herbert Prohaska also led the country for six years in the 90’s.

“Koller has to be thanked for his great work but the sober reality is that we won four of our last 18 games. In the end only the results count,” federation president Leo Windtner said after the meeting to determine Koller’s future.

Despite the team’s struggles, the decision was not unanimous. “A majority of the board has decided that the contract will be fulfilled but not extended,” Windtner said, insinuating that it was not a unanimous decision.

Austria has already been eliminated from contention for an automatic qualification place, sitting nine points back of Group D leaders Serbia. In order to secure a second place finish in the group and earn a playoff spot, they would need to win both home vs. Serbia and on the road against Moldova, plus get outside help with Wales losing their final two matches – including one against Georgia – and the Republic of Ireland earn a maximum of one point from its final two games.