OCEANIA NATIONS CUP
Totori scores equalizer
Benjamin Totori scored a 57th-minute equalizer for the Solomon Islands in a 1-1 draw with New Zealand yesterday as both teams clinched places in the semi-finals of the Oceania Nations Cup, the second round of regional qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. New Zealand, which represented Oceania at the 2010 World Cup, entered their last Group B match unbeaten and with their semi-finals place already secured. The Solomon Islands faced uncertainty at the start of the final day of pool play, but were able to relax when Fiji were held to a 1-1 draw by Papua New Guinea. Fiji needed to win to have any chance of displacing the host nation in the final four. The top four teams progressed to the third round of World Cup qualifying.
FRANCE V ESTONIA
Benzema gets brace
Karim Benzema scored twice and brilliantly set up Franck Ribery for his third goal in three games as France beat Estonia 4-0 on Tuesday to boost confidence ahead of next week’s Euro 2012 match against England. France have won their three Euro 2012 warm-up matches and are undefeated in 21 straight games. Although the defense still looks shaky, France are bristling with menace in attack, with the attacking trio of Ribery, Benzema and Samir Nasri in ominous form. Winger Jeremy Menez completed the scoring in injury time.
UKRAINE V TURKEY
Euro co-hosts lose again
Ukraine slumped to their second straight defeat ahead of Euro 2012 when the tournament’s co-hosts were beaten 2-0 by Turkey in a warmup game on Tuesday. Midfielder Caner Erkin gave Turkey the lead with a low shot past goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov after 30 minutes, and striker Mustafa Pektemek doubled the score in the 70th from a quick counterattack after the Ukraine offside trap failed. The defeat came four days after Ukraine’s 3-2 loss to Austria in another friendly. In both matches, Ukraine looked vulnerable in defense and powerless in attack. Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin rested key players Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andriy Voronin, while Andriy Shevchenko only appeared for the second half.
SWEDEN V SERBIA
Defense looks shaky
Sweden beat Serbia 2-1 in their final pre-Euro 2012 friendly on Tuesday, securing an encouraging victory which nonetheless raised questions about whether the team’s defense is up to scratch ahead of the Euro championship. Sweden started off the scoring in the 23rd minute after Serbia’s ’keeper Branimir Aleksic fumbled the ball on a Swedish corner and Ola Toivonen tapped it through the posts with his heel. However, Serbia equalized just four minutes later, after a tackle by midfielder Anders Svensson gave Serbia a free-kick that led to a corner, which Neven Subotic headed in between two Swedish defenders. Serbian ’keeper Damir Kahriman, who replaced Aleksic at the start of the second half, pulled down Toivonen and earned Sweden a penalty kick in the 52nd minute, which Zlatan Ibrahimovic blasted into the far-left corner to produce Sweden’s winning goal. However, despite the win, the hosts looked shaky and uncertain, nowhere near the smooth-playing and united team seen during training camp, raising concern as to whether coach Erik Hamren would be able to iron out the wrinkles before the Euros start. Also of concern was Sweden’s starting goalkeeper, Andreas Isaksson, who left the pitch in the 71st minute with a slight groin injury.