Italy and Belgium suffer defeats as Sweden draw with Czech Republic

Germany get back on track as they equal record win over Azzurri

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Belgium during the friendly international at the Magalhaes Pessoa stadium in Leiria, Portugal. Photograph:  Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his goal against Belgium during the friendly international at the Magalhaes Pessoa stadium in Leiria, Portugal. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

 

Germany 4 Italy 1

World champions Germany crushed Italy 4-1 in their friendly international in Munich on Tuesday to equal their biggest win against their opponents and recover from a surprise home loss to England as they put down a marker for the European Championship.

Goals from Toni Kroos, Mario Götze and Jonas Hector in the first hour gave Italy no chance.

Mesut Özil then converted a 75th-minute penalty after Sebastian Rudy was brought down.

Stephan El Shaarawy pulled a goal back in the 84th to deny Germany their biggest victory over their European rivals.

The result, however, equalled their previous best performance against Italy – another three-goal winning margin from their 5-2 victory in 1939.

Germany started exactly as they did against England on Saturday in Berlin, taking a 2-0 lead, with Thomas Müller, captaining the side for the first time in his 70th international, setting up both goals with crosses from the right.

Kroos drilled home after Müller’s cross was deflected into his path in the 24th minute for his second goal in two matches, and Götze headed in a fine delivery from his Bayern Munich teammate on the stroke of half-time.

Götze, overlooked by Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola for weeks following his return from injury, did well to sneak in between two defenders to score.

Germany had blown their two-goal advantage against England to lose 3-2, but there was no repeat, with defender Hector establishing a three-goal cushion with a low shot after some bad defending from the visitors.

Özil made it 4-0 with his spot-kick before El Shaarawy grabbed a late consolation goal for the four-time World Cup winners.

Portugal 2 Belgium 1

Portugal proved too strong for a Belgian side shorn of its regular defence and creative midfielders, securing a 2-1 victory in a Euro 2016 warm-up friendly played in the shadow of last week’s Brussels attacks.

Belgium were due to have hosted the match in Brussels, but it was switched to Leiria in Portugal after the bombings at Brussels Airport and the city’s metro.

Belgium, who are number one in the Fifa world rankings, were missing half their regulars and this gave fringe players a chance to stake a claim for Euro 2016 squad berths. In the event, few excelled, with goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois the standout player.

Injuries stripped them of captain Vincent Kompany and fellow defender Jan Vertonghen, attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, playmaker Eden Hazard and striker Christian Benteke.

With right back Toby Alderweireld also out due to illness, a makeshift Belgian defence struggled to counter Portugal’s attack led by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Portugal, who lost 1-0 at home to Bulgaria on Friday with Ronaldo missing a penalty, forced Courtois to make four fine saves inside the first 15 minutes.

However, he could do little to keep out a shot from Nani in the 20th minute and a Ronaldo header 20 minutes later.

Momentum changed on the hour mark, when Ronaldo and Nani left the field and Belgium’s Jordan Lukaku came on at left back. Within minutes he supplied the cross from which brother Romelu scored, but Portugal held on for victory.

Belgium warmed up in grey tops with “In memory of all victims” on the front and played in white shirts with the Belgian flag in the middle and black armbands.

“The events of March 22nd are naturally in the minds of the players, but when the referee blows the match will start and we’ll go for it,” coach Marc Wilmots had said before the game.

Belgian and Portuguese players stood mixed together as they sang the two national anthems.

Sweden 1 Czech Republic 1

Sweden, buoyed by the return of captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, drew 1-1 with the Czech Republic in Stockholm as both sides continued their preparations for Euro 2016.

The home side, looking to rebound after losing 2-1 to Turkey on Thursday, took the lead in the 14th minute when Marcus Berg converted a cross with a first-time effort past Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

The Czechs, who lost to Scotland 1-0 at home last week, levelled in the 26th minute through Matej Vydra’s diving header.

The Swedes controlled much of the game and created a number of chances throughout, forcing Vaclik into several sharp saves.

They also welcomed the return of Ibrahimovic, who missed Sweden’s friendly against Turkey.

Striker Ibrahimovic, 34, recently secured his fourth Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain and scored 11 goals in Euro 2016 qualifying for the Swedes.

Czech manager Pavel Vrba used a number of young players as he continues to experiment with different lineups ahead of this year’s tournament.

The Czechs left Borek Dockal – their leading scorer during qualifying – on the bench for most of the match and played without injured Arsenal duo Tomas Rosicky and Petr Cech.

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