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Football friendlies: Portugal beat Belgium in shadow of Brussels attacks

Last updated on: March 30, 2016 12:18 IST

A round-up of all the international friendlies played on Tuesday

Portugal's Nani (L) celebrates his goal against Belgium

IMAGE: Portugal's Nani (L) celebrates his goal against Belgium during an international friendly at Magalhaes Pessoa stadium, in Leiria, Portugal, on Tuesday. Photograph: Rafael Marchante/Reuters

Portugal proved too strong for a Belgian side shorn of its regular defence and creative midfielders, securing a 2-1 victory in a Euro 2016 warm-up friendly played in the shadow of last week's Brussels attacks.

Belgium were due to have hosted the match in Brussels, but it was switched to Leiria in Portugal after the bombings at Brussels Airport and the city's metro that killed 32 people, excluding three suspected suicide bombers.

Belgium, who are number one in the FIFA world rankings, were missing half their regulars and this gave fringe players a chance to stake a claim for Euro 2016 squad berths. In the event, few excelled, with keeper Thibaut Courtois the stand out player.

Injuries stripped them of captain Vincent Kompany and fellow defender Jan Vertonghen, attacking midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, playmaker Eden Hazard and striker Christian Benteke.

With right back Toby Alderweireld also out due to illness, a makeshift Belgian defence struggled to counter Portugal's attack led by Cristiano Ronaldo.

Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (left) vies with Belgium midfielder Guillaume Gillet

IMAGE: Portuguese forward Cristiano Ronaldo (left) vies with Belgium midfielder Guillaume Gillet. Photograph: Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images

Portugal, who lost 1-0 at home to Bulgaria on Friday with Ronaldo missing a penalty, forced Courtois to make four fine saves inside the first 15 minutes.

However, he could do little to keep out a shot from Nani in the 20th minute and a Ronaldo header 20 minutes later.

Momentum changed on the hour mark, when Ronaldo and Nani left the field and Belgium's Jordan Lukaku came on at left back. Within minutes he supplied the cross from which brother Romelu scored, but Portugal held on for victory.

Belgium warmed up in grey tops with "In memory of all victims" on the front and played in white shirts with the Belgian flag in the middle and black armbands.

"The events of March 22 are naturally in the minds of the players, but when the referee blows the match will start and we'll go for it," coach Marc Wilmots had said before the game.

Belgian and Portuguese players stood mixed together as they sang the two national anthems.

Disputed Dutch winner keeps England in check

The Netherlands' Luciano Narsingh (2nd from left) celebrates scoring the winner with teammates Memphis Depay (left) and Georginio Wijnaldum during their international friendly against England at Wembley Stadium in London

IMAGE: The Netherlands' Luciano Narsingh (2nd from left) celebrates scoring the winner with teammates Memphis Depay (left) and Georginio Wijnaldum during their international friendly against England at Wembley Stadium in London. Photograph: Julian Finney/Getty Images

England came crashing down to earth with a frustrating 2-1 loss to an inexperienced Netherlands side at Wembley on Tuesday, failing to build on their defeat of world champions Germany last weekend.

Second-half goals from Dutch forward Vincent Janssen and substitute Luciano Narsingh cancelled out a Jamie Vardy strike in the first half, sapping the optimism around Roy Hodgson's side ahead of this June's European Championship finals.

On paper it should have been a routine victory for England -- a team undefeated at Wembley for 2-1/2 years, brimming with Premier League talent and up against an injury-hit, experimental Dutch outfit that failed to qualify for the Euros.

But history was never on their side. Barring one win in 1996, they have not tasted success against the Netherlands in more than 30 years.

This time they may have reason to feel aggrieved, with striker Janssen appearing to shove defender Phil Jagielka in the build-up to Narsingh's winner.

Yet from the start England struggled to rekindle the attacking flair that saw them stage a second-half fightback to beat Germany 3-2 on Saturday.

England's Jamie Vardy fires in a shot on goal past Netherlands' Daley Blind

IMAGE: England's Jamie Vardy fires in a shot on goal past Netherlands' Daley Blind. Photograph: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

England had the lion's share of possession in the opening exchanges but it took until the 41st minute for Vardy to tap his side ahead after right back Kyle Walker found space on the right-hand side of the area and nicked the ball across the face of goal.

The goal -- England's 100th in the four-year tenure of manager Hodgson -- appeared to liven up the crowd, who had little to rouse them early on other than a moving ovation to legendary Dutch forward Johann Cruyff, who died last week.

There were defensive lapses from both sides on the wet Wembley surface, hinting that the game could swing either way.

So it was a ramshackle Dutch side -- without reliable veterans such as Wesley Sneijder and Arjen Robben -- that levelled the score shortly after the break when defender Danny Rose gave away a penalty for a handball.

Janssen fired the 50th-minute spot kick high into the net, his first goal for his country.

England had some chances of their own to regain the lead. An acrobatic leap from Dutch keeper Jeroen Zoet stopped a swerving long-range effort from Vardy before substitute defender Nathaniel Clyne thumped another scoring chance at the stopper.

Ultimately it took a contentious incident to help separate the two sides, leading to long protestations from England's players and booing from the home support.

England's next game is against Turkey in Manchester on May 22. They kick off their campaign in the Euros against Russia on June 11, having also drawn Slovakia and Wales in Group B.

Goetze puts Bayern woes aside to shine for Germany

Germany's Mario Gotze (left) celebrates after scoring the second goal against Italy at Allianz Arena in Munich on Tuesday

IMAGE: Germany's Mario Gotze (left) celebrates after scoring the second goal against Italy at Allianz Arena in Munich on Tuesday. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Germany attacking midfielder Mario Goetze's goal and overall performance in their 4-1 victory over Italy on Tuesday will hopefully boost his confidence as he struggles for playing time at Bayern Munich, coach Joachim Loew said.

The 23-year-old has been largely overlooked by Bayern coach Pep Guardiola since returning from a five-month injury break in February, with speculation over a possible move back to Borussia Dortmund gaining traction in recent weeks.

"Mario earned this (performance) himself," Loew told reporters.

"I can understand why he may be playing less at Bayern at the moment because they have a great squad and he was injured for a long time.

"But Mario has worked hard in the past weeks, he did individual training sessions to get back to his best and I hope the game today gave him the self-confidence he needs for the for the coming weeks."

Goetze, who scored Germany's winning goal in the 2014 World Cup final, has never held down a regular starting spot under Guardiola despite his big-money move from Dortmund in 2013.

Loew has kept faith with Goetze, however, and the gifted player paid him back by heading in Germany's second goal on Tuesday and then helping set up their third with a jaw-dropping flick that eventually saw Jonas Hector score.

Ibrahimovic returns as Sweden draw 1-1 with Czech Republic

Czech Republic's Daniel Pudil (left) fights for the ball with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during their friendly soccer match at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden 

IMAGE: Czech Republic's Daniel Pudil (left) fights for the ball with Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic during their friendly soccer match at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Photograph: Fredrik Sandberg/TT News Agency/via Reuters

Sweden, buoyed by the return of captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic, drew 1-1 with the CzechRepublic as both sides continued their preparations for Euro 2016 with a warm-up friendly on Tuesday.

The home side, looking to rebound after losing 2-1 to Turkey on Thursday, took the lead in the 14th minute when Marcus Berg converted a cross with a first-time effort past Czech goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik.

The Czechs, who lost to Scotland 1-0 at home last week, levelled in the 26th minute through Matej Vydra's diving header.

The Swedes controlled much of the game and created a number of chances throughout, forcing Vaclik into several sharp saves.

They also welcomed the return of Ibrahimovic, who missed Sweden's friendly against Turkey.

Striker Ibrahimovic, 34, recently secured his fourth Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain and scored 11 goals in Euro 2016 qualifying for the Swedes.

Czech manager Pavel Vrba used a number of young players as he continues to experiment with different lineups ahead of this year's tournament.

The Czechs left Borek Dockal -- their leading scorer during qualifying -- on the bench for most of the match and played without injured Arsenal duo Tomas Rosicky and Petr Cech.

Sweden have been drawn in Group E with Ireland, Italy and Belgium for the Euro 2016 finals in France in June and July.

The Czechs, who finished top of their qualifying group ahead of Iceland, Turkey and the Netherlands, will begin their Euro 2016 campaign with a Group D match against holders Spain.

Goals galore for France as Russia are swept aside

France bristled with goalscoring threat just 10 weeks before they host Euro 2016 as they beat Russia 4-2 in a friendly international on Tuesday.

In the first soccer match at the Stade de France since last November's deadly Paris attacks, Les Bleus played some attractive football and scored through N'Golo Kante, Andre-Pierre Gignac, Dimitri Payet and Kingsley Coman.

Seven players have now scored in two games after Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Blaise Matuidi were on target in the 3-2 win against the Netherlands four days earlier.

Alexander Kokorin and Yuri Zhirkov reduced the arrears for Russia, making the most of France's lapses in concentration on a rainy night in the capital.

Security was tight in and around the Stade de France following the attacks in Paris by militant Islamists on November 13 that killed 130 people.

The crowd observed a minute's silence before kick-off in memory of the victims of last week's bombings in Brussels.

LeicesterCity's Kante, celebrating his 25th birthday, marked his first start with his first international goal in the eighth minute -- a low shot from inside the box after being played through by Griezmann.

Russia were physical but Gignac doubled the tally by heading home Griezmann's corner seven minutes before the interval.

France suffered a minor glitch when full back Jeremy Mathieu, who had come on for Patrice Evra at halftime, limped off with a leg injury and was replaced by Lucas Digne.

Digne was caught cold by Kokorin, who beat him to the ball to latch on to Alan Dzagoev's free kick in the 56th minute.

West Ham United's Payet restored the two-goal lead on his 29th birthday with a superb 30-metre free kick into the top corner in the 64th minute, two minutes after coming on for Griezmann.

Russia hit back again when Zhirkov slotted home from Oleg Shatov's pass but second-half substitute Coman made it 4-2 with 14 minutes left with a fine shot on the turn. 

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