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Rediff.com  » Sports » Argentina bounce back

Argentina bounce back

November 17, 2005 11:34 IST

Argentina enjoyed a 3-0 victory away to Qatar on Wednesday as several qualified nations for next year's World Cup finals squeezed in warm-up friendlies.

Italy, who like Argentina will be strongly fancied in Germany next year, were given a fright in Geneva where they were held 1-1 by the fellow qualifiers Ivory Coast.

Twice world champions Argentina, still smarting from their 3-2 defeat by arch-rivals England on Saturday, scored three times in four second-half minutes.

Midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme broke the deadlock after 70 minutes before substitute Julio Cruz and defender Roberto Ayala put the gloss on their performance.

"I am surprised by Qatar's display," said Argentina coach Jose Pekerman, who handed a start to Barcelona teenager Lionel Messi who missed the England match through suspension.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba scored after 69 minutes as the Ivory Coast threatened to inflict a first defeat in 15 matches on three-times world champions Italy.

Drogba, who helped the African nation qualify for their first finals, controlled a low ball before lashing it into the roof of the net.

Italy were spared defeat four minutes from time when Sampdoria midfielder Aimo Diana latched on to a cross from Gianluca Zambrotta to poach an equaliser at the far post.

Japan, coached by former Brazilian great Zico, edged out first-time World Cup qualifiers Angola 1-0 in Tokyo thanks to a last-minute goal from substitute midfielder Daisuke Matsui.

"I think we dominated the game, but I would have felt more comfortable if we had scored earlier," said Zico.

"It's been a great year. We qualified for the World Cup, which was our main aim, and now we just have to strengthen the team for next year."

HOPES RAISED

Japan's neighbours South Korea also raised optimism for next year's finals with an impressive 2-0 victory over first time World Cup qualifiers Serbia & Montenegro in Seoul that maintained their unbeaten run under new coach Dick Advocaat.

The 2002 World Cup semi-finalists opened the scoring in the fifth minute when defender Choi Jin-cheul rose to meet Lee Eul-yong's free kick with a glancing header.

South Korea went 2-0 up early in the second half thanks to a superb solo effort from striker Lee Dong-gook who raced the length of the field before slamming in a low drive.

Tunisia, who will be appearing at their third consecutive World Cup finals, enjoyed a 2-1 victory over north African rivals Egypt.

Poland were 3-1 winners over Estonia while European champions Greece, who failed to reach the finals, scrambled a 2-1 victory at home to Hungary.

Cyprus beat Wales 1-0 in Limassol, a Welsh performance coach John Toshack described as: "the worst international performance I have ever witnessed. I was embarrassed by what I saw and feel sorry for our fans who came out to Cyprus to support us."

 

Martyn Herman
Source:
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