August 16, 2006

Croatia defeats world champions Italy

By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - World champions Italy, without any of
the players involved in Germany, were brought quickly down to
earth on Wednesday when they lost 2-0 at home to Croatia in a

In their first game under new coach Roberto Donadoni the
Italian reserves saw the country's 25-game unbeaten run come to
an end via first half goals for Eduardo da Silva and Luka
Modric as Slaven Bilic made an impressive start as Croatia

There were better results for some of Europe's other major
teams on a busy night of Euro 2008 warm-up friendlies with
Germany, Netherlands and England all claiming big wins.

Germany, under new coach Joachim Loew, beat Sweden 3-0,
England, also under new management in the shape of Steve
McClaren, swept aside ailing European champions Greece 4-0
while the Dutch were impressive 4-0 winners in Ireland.

World Cup runners-up France snatched a late 2-1 win in
Bosnia, Serbia, playing for the first time as a solo entity
after Montenegro's independence, had an impressive 3-1 win in
the Czech Republic to give coach Javier Clemente a great start
while Norway stretched their unbeaten run against Brazil to
four after a 1-1 draw in Oslo.

Italy's homecoming turned out to be a disappointing one in
Livorno as Donadoni's stand-ins were not able to rise to the
challenge set by Croatia.

Brazilian born Da Silva put the visitors ahead with a 28th
minute header and Modric tucked in a rebound for the second.

"I can't complain about what the lads produced given the
stage of the season we are at," said Donadoni.

In a remarkable parallel to the World Cup, Germany raced
into a two-goal lead against Sweden with goals by Bernd
Schneider and Miroslav Klose in the first eight minutes.


In the second round of the World Cup Germany beat Sweden
2-0 with two goals by Lukas Podolski in the first 12 minutes
but this time Klose added the third to give Juergen Klinsmann's
former assistant Loew a flying start.

England began the long and painful recovery from the World
Cup with an impressive demolition of Greece with all four goals
coming in the first half.

New captain John Terry, Frank Lampard and Peter Crouch,
twice, added the polish to an enterprising half.

Greece, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, were awful
in the opening period but fought back well to have the better
of the goalless second half.

The Netherlands produced a terrific performance in Dublin
against an injury-ravaged Ireland with the highlight being a
superb two-goal performance from debutant Ajax Amsterdam
striker Klaas Jan Huntelaar, who also set up Arjen Robben for
another before Robin van Persie completed the rout.

Two Dutch coaches taking on new charges had mixed fortunes
as Guus Hiddink's Russia beat Latvia 1-0 but Leo Beenhakker's
Poland lost 2-0 in Denmark.


World Cup runners-up France had debutant midfielder Julien
Faubert to thank for their win in Sarajevo as he slotted an
injury-time winner.

Bosnia opened the scoring through captain Sergej Barbarez
from a 16th minute free kick but defender William Gallas,
embroiled in a contract dispute at Chelsea, leveled just before
the break.

Norway remain the only team in the world to possess an
unbeaten record against Brazil after another draw with an
experimental visiting side.

The hosts opened the scoring in the 51st minute when Morten
Gamst Pedersen's free kick from 25 metres eluded all-comers.

Brazil, playing for the first time since their defeat by
France in the World Cup quarter-finals and in their first
outing under new coach Dunga, leveled through Daniel Carvalho.