news: Football

World Cup warm-up

Last week saw the first set of full-scale dress rehearsals for the 2006 World Cup qualifying phase following Euro 2004. Sven-Goran Eriksson and the England team badly needed a win at St. James’ Park against the Ukraine, to re-establish some form of credibility – and they did conjure up a convincing performance. David Beckham started off on the road to redemption by putting his country ahead, sliding home a John Terry cross after 27 minutes. The England captain then supplied an inch-perfect cross for Michael Owen to nod into the net shortly after the interval. Shaun Wright-Phillips celebrated his debut by sprinting half the length of the pitch before finishing from a seemingly impossible angle to round off a good night.

Scotland’s attempt to end an eight-year run without a friendly win at home had a touch of pathos about it. Manager Berti Vogts was the man who dropped current Hungary boss Lothar Matthaus from the German national side – revenge was sweet, as his side humiliated the Scots 3-0.

The Republic of Ireland drew 1-1 with Bulgaria in Dublin, Wales continued to improve with a 2-0 win in Latvia, and Northern Ireland held Switzerland to a 0-0 draw. Elsewhere, new German manager Jürgen Klinsmann defied the critics by beating Austria 3-1, thanks to a Kuranyi hat-trick. Fellow debutantes Aragonés, Van Basten, Domenech and Lippi enjoyed mixed fortunes – Spain beat Venezuela 3-1, Holland and France drew with Sweden and Bosnia, and the unfortunate Italians lost 2-0 to Iceland.