Underwhelming up front and uneasy at the back – but England still signed off with a victory at Wembley Stadium before the World Cup.
Only one forward contributed a goal in the 3-0 victory over Peru on Friday, with Daniel Sturridge’s deft strike in the first half breaking the dreary deadlock.
But coach Roy Hodgson was still encouraged that his players managed to successfully exploit Peru’s inability to defend set pieces to extend their lead in the second half. From two corners in a five-minute span, Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka both netted in England’s first friendly since the 23-man World Cup squad was named.
“It didn’t look as if it would be too comfortable in the first half, but as soon as Daniel scored that wonderful goal the game wasn’t in doubt,” Hodgson said. “To do it in front of 85,000 people was a great send-off, the atmosphere was a vote of confidence.
“When you play against teams with 10 men behind the ball you have to be patient but I had no doubt we would win.”
England heads over the weekend to Miami to play friendlies against Ecuador and Honduras before flying onto Brazil. In the Florida sun, it will be Wayne Rooney in particular with a lot to prove after the striker failed to come close to scoring in north London.
“We think we know where he is, how his fitness is being maintained or progressing,” Hodgson said. “His attitude and commitment are first-class, even in a game of this nature. He has two more weeks to keep that going.”
Although England was in control in the first half, there were anxious moments due to sloppiness that provided openings for the ineffective Peruvians, who didn’t qualify for Brazil. When Rooney conceded possession early on, Jean Deza was able to unleash a dipping shot that Joe Hart saved, one of several openings for the winger on his debut. And in the second half, defender Glen Johnson gave the ball away too easily inside his own half, allowing Andre Carrillo to break forward and release Deza to shoot.
Peru goalkeeper Raul Fernandez at first had little to do, with the hosts taking until the 19th minute to come close to finding the target, with Sturridge dragging a shot wide. The match was so dreary that England fans made paper airplanes out of the cardboard used for a pre-match mosaic.
But Sturridge produced a goal out of nowhere with England’s meaningful effort in the 32nd. A throw-in from Glen Johnson reached his Liverpool teammate, who placed the ball high into the net beyond Fernandez. That aside, throughout the first half Fernandez didn’t have a save to make, while Hart was called into action just before the break, coming off his line to deny Luis Ramirez with his left boot.
This wasn’t the rousing send-off England fans had hoped for, with the creativity missing and anxious moments. But the pair of goals from defenders added gloss to the win. Cahill first met Jagielka’s corner in the crowded penalty area, planting a header into the net in the 65th. Then Fernandez raced off the line to catch Leighton Baines’ corner but dropped the ball, which fell onto Cahill’s head and dropped for Jagielka to dispatch into the net.
The victory was secure, but it will be far tougher on June 14 for the World Cup opener against Italy.
“There wasn’t the match sharpness as much as we would have liked,” Sturridge said. “But it was great to be out there and we are happy with the result.”
Edin Dzeko scores twice, Bosnia beats Ivory Coast
Edin Dzeko scored twice in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s 2-1 victory over Ivory Coast on Friday night, giving the country’s raucous fans plenty to cheer about in the run-up to its first World Cup appearance.
Bosnia made its second appearance in six months in St. Louis, where it’s estimated more than 30,000 Bosnians relocated from the former war-torn Yugoslavia. Argentina shut out the national team in November across downtown at Busch Stadium.
Long-time Ivory Coast standout Didier Drogba scored on a free kick in the 91st minute. Drogba, 36, did not start but had another good scoring chance after entering in the second half.
The attendance was 14,101, less than half the turnout for the Argentina match and more than 50,000 shy of capacity at the Edward Jones Dome while the Cardinals-Giants game was sold out. Fans concentrated behind the net defended by Bosnia in the first half did their best to make up for the low numbers, chanting and singing songs to an incessant drum beat.
Fans hurled numerous smoke bombs and some flares, too, in the vicinity of Ivory Coast goalkeeper Sylvain Gbouhouo in the second half. Gbouhouo tossed them aside when he had the chance while clouds accompanied by an acrid odor hung over the pitch.
Dzeko, a striker for Manchester City and Bosnia’s top offensive threat, scored 10 of the country’s 30 goals in World Cup qualifying.
Dzeko had an empty net in the 17th minute after an Ivory Coast defender blocked a shot by Zvjezdan Misimovic. He corralled a hard pass from Miralem Pjanic in the 53rd minute and scored just inside the left post.
Uruguay dominant in 1-0 with over Northern Ireland
Uruguay missed the clinical finishing of convalescent Luis Suarez when they beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in a World Cup warm-up on Friday.
Only a fine display by visiting goalkeeper Roy Carroll and a poor final touch by the home side in front of goal at the Centenario, site of the first World Cup final won by Uruguay in 1930, prevented a rout.
Substitute Christian Stuani, who came on at halftime for Diego Forlan, put the dominant Uruguayans ahead in the 61st minute from fellow striker Edinson Cavani’s pass.
Suarez, England’s Footballer of the Year after a brilliant season for Liverpool, is recovering from knee cartilage surgery eight days ago that put his presence at the Brazil finals in doubt.
He has been given a 50-50 chance of making it to the tournament in the 23-man squad coach Oscar Tabarez must name by Monday’s deadline.
Uruguay are in a tough Group D along with fellow former world champions Italy and England plus Costa Rica, opening against the latter on June 14.
“We have trouble opening spaces and today was no different. Although we created chances we weren’t too clear (headed) but I think we were obviously fair winners,” Uruguay captain Diego Lugano said.
“We tried to attack on the outside but the secret of our success will be in the intensity with which we mark, win the ball and strategically counter-attack,” the central defender told reporters.
Carroll made two great saves in quick succession in the first half from Edinson Cavani then the rebound from Forlan -hitting his head on the post as he made the second but soon getting back on his feet.
The 36-year-old former Manchester United keeper, now at Olympiakos Piraeus, also saved from Forlan with his chest two minutes into first half stoppage time while Cavani hit the rebound wide.
Forlan, voted best player at the 2010 finals in South Africa, had a fine first half in Suarez’s place up front and Gaston Ramirez showed good form on the right side of midfield creating chances.
Defender Sebastian Coates, recently back from injury, was possibly playing for a place in Tabarez’s definitive squad in Diego Godin’s absence.
Godin, captain Diego Lugano’s regular centre back partner, only recently joined the squad in Montevideo after playing for Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final last Saturday.
Uruguay have a final preparation match against Slovenia at the same venue next Wednesday, while the Irish move on to Valparaiso to give another warm-up to Chile. – Reuters