Portugal stumble, France impress in World Cup warm-ups

Wednesday, 30 May 2018 00:51 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Barcelona (Reuters): European champions Portugal spurned a two-goal lead against Tunisia, stumbling to a 2-2 draw, as France, one of the World Cup favourites, flexed their muscles with a comfortable 2-0 win over Ireland in warm-up friendlies on Monday.

Portugal were without captain Cristiano Ronaldo after he won the Champions League with Real Madrid on Saturday and Tunisia exposed defensive frailties in Fernando Santos’ side which Group B opponents Spain, Morocco and Iran will try to exploit.

Andre Silva and Joao Mario fired Portugal ahead in Braga but Tunisia’s speed on the counter-attack was a problem for the hosts.

Anice Badri and Fakhreddine Ben Youssef pulled the African side level, proving they will be no pushovers for Group G favourites Belgium and England, as well as Panama.

France put in a strong performance in Paris, with goals from Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir not telling the complete story of their dominance against Ireland.

Impressive surges from full backs Benjamin Mendy and Djibril Sidibe showed Les Bleus have attacking power outside their collection of talented forwards and Didier Deschamps’ team selection highlighted their squad depth.

Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante did not start but Giroud, Fekir and Corentin Tolisso impressed in their absence.

Coach Roberto Mancini began his Italy reign with a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia and his former Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli opened the scoring on his return to the national team for the first time since 2014.

Italy failed to reach the World Cup but began a new era with Andrea Belotti adding a second goal, but Saudi Arabia hit back thanks to Yahya Al Sheri and could have grabbed a late equaliser.

Their revival gives them hope of competing well in World Cup Group A, where hosts Russia, Uruguay and Egypt await.

Iran suffered a blow to their confidence, losing 2-1 in Istanbul against Turkey, who have not qualified for the finals, Cenk Tosun scoring both goals for the home team early in each half.

Ashkan Dejagah netted from the penalty spot in the 92nd minute to give the visitors a consolation.

Iran, appearing in their fifth World Cup, will go to Russia hoping to advance for the first time to the knockout phase from Group B.

Forward Son Heung-min lashed home from distance as South Korea beat Honduras 2-0 in Daegu, getting their preparations for Russia off to a good start.

Former Barcelona B midfielder Lee Seung-woo, now at Hellas Verona, impressed on his debut and pushed his claims to be included in coach Shin Tae-yong’s final 23-man squad.

South Korea are underdogs in Group F, where they face Germany, Mexico and Sweden.

Nigeria were frustrated in a 1-1 draw with DR Congo in Port Harcourt which does not bode well for their challenge of qualifying from World Cup Group D which also includes Argentina, Iceland and Croatia.

What a scorcher! Son shines in South Korea win

Soccer Football - International Friendly - South Korea vs Honduras - Daegu Stadium, Daegu, South Korea - May 28, 2018 South Korea’s Son Heung-Min celebrates scoring their first goal with team mates - REUTERS


DAEGU, AFP: Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min scored a screamer as South Korea beat Honduras 2-0 in their opening World Cup warm-up match on Monday. 

Son thumped a thunderous shot off his left foot to put South Korea ahead in the 60th minute, before Moon Seon-min capped his international debut with their second goal on 72 minutes. 

The win will give encouragement to South Korea’s coach Shin Tae-yong, who took over last June after Uli Stielike’s sacking and is facing a tough Group F at the World Cup. 

South Korea, who will play holders Germany, Mexico and Sweden in Russia, are likely to rely heavily on Son in Russia and he didn’t disappoint in Daegu. 

Debutant Lee Seung-woo, a product of Barcelona’s youth system now playing in Italy, won the ball in midfield before picking out Son for his emphatic opener from outside the box.  South Korea-based Moon also grabbed his chance to impress when he calmly controlled Red Bull Salzburg forward Hwang Hee-chan’s cross, beating a defender, before rolling it past goalkeeper Donis Escober. 

South Korea also host Bosnia-Herzegovina on Friday before departing for two more warm-ups against Bolivia and Senegal in Austria on June 7 and 11.