thumbnail Hello,

Goal.com assesses how the likes of Brazil, Argentina, Italy, Netherlands and Spain fared in the midweek matches, and what can be gained from the club football break

COMMENT

Friendly international breaks are not looked upon with great fondness in the world of football. They largely fail to stir great interest in most supporters and serve to infuriate club coaches whose players often return from duty injured and out of action.

However, the array of excellent fixtures had whet many an appetite heading into the midweek matches, and the resulting entertainment proved that perhaps a break from the weekly grind of club football is not that pointless after all.

Read on to discover what Goal.com learned from Wednesday's international friendlies.

Argentina possess best attack in the world


By Tom Webber

They may have only been given 45 minutes as a quartet, but with Angel Di Maria supporting a front line of Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi, the Albiceleste were untouchable. It took just three minutes for them to get off the mark and the confidence then flowed with some slick, one-touch passing football.

Di Maria supplied the attacking injection with a number of mazy dribbles through the middle of the park and was a threat all night long. While they may have shown weakness when defending set-pieces, they possess more than enough in attack to worry the best in the game.

Neymar yet to prove himself to doubters

 
By Miles Chambers

Much of the talk heading into England's battle with Brazil on Wednesday night circled around which of the Brazil cast would play the starring role and set Wembley alight, with Neymar the main candidate. But, quite simply, the Santos starlet did not deliver as he and his team-mates slumped to a 2-1 defeat.

Neymar, who turned 21 on Tuesday, looked off the pace throughout the 90 minutes. His first touch let him down, his reactions were slow and his finishing was questionable all game long. Much of this can be put down to a lack of fitness with the Brasileirao having finished its season in December, but it will not stop critics from casting further doubt over his credentials.

Valbuena shines in France defeat


By Mohammed Ali

France may have fallen to a defeat on Wednesday, but Didier Deschamps will take heart from his side's performance against Germany. While question marks remain over defensive frailties that gifted Germany both of their goals, the performance will be noted for the attacking performance the team produced, after a number of conservative displays in recent times.

The evening could finally see Mathieu Valbuena heralded as an integral part of this France squad. The Marseille man has long been on the fringes of the national side since 2010, though has certainly come into his own, scoring for the second international game in a row against tough opponents. In this case, defeat should not necessarily mean disappointment.

Germany do have fighting spirit after all


By Enis Koylu

Much has been said about the Nationalelf's mentality since Germany's exit from Euro 2012, or more to the point their apparent lack of fighting spirit. Their capitulation against Italy was closely followed by a defeat to Argentina and the catastrophic 4-4 draw with Sweden, with supporters demanding immediate change.

Despite calls for his sacking, Joachim Low stuck by his philosophy, and it appears to be paying off. To go behind so close to the half-time break against France in Paris and to comeback to win, takes a real show of steel, particularly in the cauldron of Stade de France. The fact they prevailed, having not beaten les Bleus for 26 years, shows that Germany do possess a winning mentality after all - now they just have to show it when it really matters.

Milan must forget Astori but keep Abate

By Kris Voakes | Italian Football Writer

When the final whistle blew at the Amsterdam ArenA, it was Davide Astori who was first to congratulate Marco Verratti on Italy's 92nd minute equaliser against the Netherlands, and with good reason. The Cagliari defender had committed the cardinal sin of turning his back as Jeremain Lens teed himself up for the opener, which looked set to give the Oranje victory until the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder intervened in injury-time.

Fabio Capello once stated during his reign as England boss that friendly internationals were as much about finding out who to exclude as they were who to include, and if Azzurri chief Cesare Prandelli learned one thing on Wednesday night, it was that Astori just does not have the mettle in terms of anticipation and defensive intelligence to make it at the very top level. That should also resonate with AC Milan, who were linked heavily with their former youth centre-back in January and are expected to try to land him again in the summer.

Elsewhere, a stand-out performance from Ignazio Abate at right-back will have given both Prandelli and Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri something to ponder. With much speculation surrounding the wide man's future, such displays had seemed to be a thing of the past. However, if he can continue to dominate the flank as he did in Amsterdam, then he still has a chance to save both his club and international future.

Maher gives Sneijder reasons to worry


By Stefan Coerts

AZ youngster Adam Maher got the chance to prove his worth for Oranje in midfield as Wesley Sneijder was left out, and the 19-year-old did not disappoint national team coach Louis van Gaal. The attacking midfielder was involved in every dangerous attack in the opening 45 minutes of the game and was unfortunate not to find the net as he was denied by Gianluigi Buffon twice. Maher was slightly less influential after the break, but his fantastic through ball for Dirk Kuyt in the closing stages was one of the highlights of the match. Sneijder might be the captain of the national side, but he needs to find his form quickly as a new generation is ready to take his place.

Spain find new goalscorer in Pedro


By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Writer

Despite Spain's huge success over the last few years, goals have not been easy to come by for la Roja in the last two major international tournaments. At the World Cup in 2010, Spain scored just nine goals, while at Euro 2012 Vicente del Bosque's side lined up without a striker at times.

With Fernando Torres toiling and David Villa barely featuring at Barcelona, there is concern over the champions' forward line, but Pedro has now emerged as a surprise goalscorer. The Tenerife-born forward netted twice against Uruguay on Wednesday and now has nine in six games for his country this term, compared to seven in 32 appearances for Barca. Pedro is on target to beat David Villa's 13 in 2008-09 but more importantly, has proved he is more than just a winger for Spain.

Related

From the web