Thursday 22 March 2018

Croats and Italy suffer setbacks on home front

IT WAS a bad night all round for Croatia - Ireland's first opponents at the Euro 2012 finals - last night, as Slaven Bilic's side suffered a surprising loss at home to Sweden in a friendly and lost former Tottenham man Vedran Corluka to injury.

Bilic said in the build-up to the game that he had selected the Swedes as opponents for his first friendly in the warm-up for Euro 2012 because they play in a similar style to Ireland, and Sweden certainly gave Bilic food for thought with a 3-1 win in Zagreb.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic -- the son of a Croatian mother -- put Sweden ahead but West Brom's Jonas Olsson's own goal saw Croatia draw level.

But Birmingham City star Sebastian Larsson enjoyed the night as he scored twice to earn a famous win for the Swedes, while Croatia await an injury update on Corluka.


There was also pain in a home game for Italy, another of Ireland's Euro 2012 opponents, as the Italians went down 1-0 to the USA in Genoa, with Clint Dempsey on target for the Americans.

But Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said he was not concerned by the defeat. "With 100 days to go before the European Championship, I am not worried, absolutely not," he said.

"I liked the way the team played and the defeat was undeserved. We were more incisive after the break and raised the tempo.

"The only mistake we made was to attack deep but at the wrong time, thus ending in an offside position often. With this spirit we will certainly have a great Euro 2012."

A classy Spain side showed their quality with a 5-0 rout of Venezuela in Malaga. Valencia striker Roberto Solado showed Fernando Torres how much work he has to do before he can get into the Spanish side or even their squad -- Chelsea man Torres was excluded from the panel -- with a hat-trick. Andres Iniesta and David Silva were also on target for Spain.

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