Spain ruined David Beckham’s celebrations of equalling England’s appearance record for an outfield player with a 2-0 win on Wednesday. Beckham came on as a halftime substitute in Seville for his 108th international appearance,but David Villa and Fernando Llorente scored to hand England its first loss in almost a year.
The loss of England’s unbeaten streak shows it still has plenty of work to do after missing last year’s European Championship,which Spain won.
Euro 2008 runner-up Germany was also in friendly action,losing to Norway for the first time in 73 years when it was beaten 1-0. Lionel Messi helped Argentina to a 2-0 win at France,while Cristiano Ronaldo hit a penalty to give Portugal a 1-0 win over Finland.
Wins over Croatia and Germany meant England was confident its depleted squad could compete with Spain,but the home side kept possession well throughout and went ahead in the 36th when Villa collected the ball on the edge of the area,twisted through the defence and scored with a low shot.
Beckham came on as one of five halftime replacements for England,but it was a Spain substitute Llorente,who made the biggest impact,heading in Xavi Hernandez’s cross.
“They always keep the ball well. They’re a nation of players that pass the ball around well,” said Beckham,who played in Spain for Real Madrid. “They got two good goals.”
Beckham said the result affected his enjoyment in equalling Bobby Moore’s appearance record. Only goalkeeper Peter Shilton,with 125 appearances,has played more games for England.
“I’ve always said I’d be honoured to be up there with the likes of Sir Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore,but the most important thing is the game,” Beckham said.
Without a victory in 2008,Norway won its first game under new coach Egil Olsen despite missing some of its biggest stars. Germany,meanwhile,has now lost consecutive games ahead of its March 28 World Cup qualifier against Liechtenstein.
The only previous time Norway had beaten Germany was at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin,but Christian Grindheim scored in the 63rd minute in Duesseldorf with a close-range shot.
“Norway was very well organised. We gave them time to get 10 men behind the ball. This was not an undeserved loss. But we will learn our lesson from this,I can promise that,” Germany coach Joachim Loew said.
Croatia’s warm up for its next qualifier for the 2010 World Cup,on April 1 at Andorra,went much better with striker Eduardo da Silva’s return from a year out through injury. Australia and South Korea both secured away draws to stay top of their groups in Asian qualifying for the World Cup.
While the Aussies drew 0-0 at Japan to stay ahead of its opponent in Group 1,South Korea needed a late goal by Manchester United midfielder Park Ji-sung to draw 1-1 in Iran.
Tottenham striker Robbie Keane scored twice in five second-half minutes to give Ireland a 2-1 win over Georgia that put his team level with World Cup holder Italy at the top of European qualifying Group 8. Albania drew 0-0 at Malta but still moved into third place in its qualifying group,ahead of Portugal.
Northern Ireland won 3-0 at San Marino in the other European qualifier.
World Cup host South Africa’s five-match winning streak ended with a 2-0 home loss to Chile in a friendly. African champion Egypt drew 2-2 with Ghana,Morocco held the Czech Republic 0-0,Cameroon beat Guinea 3-1 and Jamel Saihi scored a second-half equalizer to give Tunisia its 1-1 draw against the Netherlands. Nigeria drew 0-0 with Jamaica in a friendly in London.