World Cup finalists experience differing fortunes

PARIS, Nov 17, 2010 (AFP) - World champions Spain slipped to a stunning 4-0 friendly defeat at the hands of bitter rivals Portugal on Wednesday while the team they beat in July's final the Netherlands emerged 1-0 victors over a Turkish side coached by a former boss Guus Hiddink.

Elsewhere 2006 world champions Italy's woeful year ended on a suitably poor note on and off the pitch as they had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with Romania while a section of their fans displayed a banner with the message "No to multi-cultural Italy" on it.

The focus of their bigotry was aimed at one of their own players, young Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, who is of Ghanaian ancestry.

Balotelli's compatriot Fabio Capello also ended 2010 on a flat note as the wisdom of keeping him on as England coach after a poor World Cup - where they went out 4-1 to Germany in the second round - was called into question again.

His side were outplayed losing 2-1 at Wembley to a France side which had an even worse World Cup - riven apart by internal strife and poor results under Raymond Domenech - but have been rejuvenated by coach Laurent Blanc.

Portugal's impressive victory - their goals coming from Carlos Martins, an own goal by Sergi Ramos, Helder Postiga and Hugo Almeida - was hardly recompense for their 1-0 defeat by Spain in the second round clash at the World Cup but it was welcome nevertheless.

Portugal´s defender Joao Pereira (L) vies with Spain's midfielder David Silva (R) during their friendly football match at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon on November 17, 2010. AFP

Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque will be concerned that a defence that barely put a foot wrong at the finals has leaked goals alarmingly since then including two in a Euro 2012 qualifier against a hardly feared Scottish side.

Del Bosque accepted that his side had deserved to be well beaten.

"We were inferior," said the former Real Madrid handler.

"We have no excuses. We allowed them too much space. We could not have played worse.

"They felt at ease and really hurt us on the counter-attack."

The Dutch eked out their victory courtesy of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar's ninth goal in his last five international matches and made him the first Dutch player since Johan Neeskens in 1974 to have scored in five successive international games.

Italy put up a terrible defence of their title in South Africa coming home after the first round and whilst new coach Cesare Prandelli has changed many of the personnel it took the introduction of two of the old guard Andrea Pirlo and Daniel De Rossi to spark some life into them in the second-half of their clash with Romania.

Indeed it was Pirlo's late corner that saw another substitute Fabio Quagliarella grab the draw against a side that is struggling to make an impression in its Euro 2012 qualifying group.

Capello will be scratching his head more than Prandelli as he seeks answers to re-energising England, who spent most of the first-half of their match chasing ghosts as the French ran rings round them and were unfortunate not to have more than Karim Benzema's goal to show for it.

Another by Mathieu Valbuena in the second-half gave them deserved breathing space and Peter Crouch's late goal did little to assuage a disgruntled home crowd.

Capello struggled to put a brave face on the loss afterwards.

"France played very well in the first half, we played with a bit of fear and we missed lots of passes," Capello said.

"We played a lot of long balls to Carroll but that's not the style that we like to play. It was interesting to see these players against a strong team like France."

Blanc - who had guided his side to three successive Euro 2012 qualifier victories coming into the game after opening the qualifying campaign with a home defeat to Belarus - saluted his players on a Wembley win he claimed they would "remember for the rest of their lives".

He added: "What pleased me was the scoreline but more than that was the way we played to counter this very athletic England side. You should have seen the players' joy in the dressing room."

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