Goals from David Beckham, Michael Owen and debutant Shaun Wright-Phillips sealed an easy 3-0 victory for England against Ukraine in rain swept Newcastle last night.
England produced a classy performance much to the relief of head-coach Sven Goran Erikkson, as lightening storms engulfed St James’ Park.
Captain, Beckham, opened the scoring after 27 minutes when he slid onto a low cross from John Terry which Ukranian goalkeeper, Olaxander Shovkovsky failed to gather.
Beckham turned from scorer to provider on 50 minutes when he chipped the ball into the box for his fellow Real Madrid galactico, Owen, to score with an easy close range header.
Shaun Wright-Phillips came on at half time for his senior international debut and finished hopes of a Ukraine comeback with a superb solo effort. The young midfielder finished brilliantly after a 50-yard run to complete the rout.
Erikkson was full of praise for the young Manchester City star.
He said: “Shaun has incredible pace and good technique and is a very positive football player. I’m very happy for him to score a debut goal like that.”
The coach was also quick to defend Kieron Dyer who was jeered by large sections of the Newcastle crowd after his bust up with Toon Army manager, Bobby Robson, last weekend.
He defended: “I feel sorry for him but I think he handled it well. I hope he will go on playing for England and there will be some love between Kieron Dyer and the crowd in the future.”
Hungary humiliated Scotland last night, cruising to a 3-0 win at Hampden Park last night.
Two goals from left back Szabolcs Huszti and a David Marshall own-goal saw a demoralised Scotland team suffer a seventh consecutive friendly defeat at Hampden Park.
Captain Barry Ferguson of Blackburn Rovers offered no excuses.
He said: “We can’t keep on going on about things, we have to get it right one day. There is no use moaning, we need to get on the training pitch and sort it out.”
Coach Bert Vogts struggled to find any positives and admits he is concerned before Scotland start their World Cup qualifying campaign against Slovenia next month.
Wales saw off Latvia 2-0 in Riga with two late goals from John Hartson and Craig Bellamy securing a victory last night.
But Latvia will wonder how they lost as they pushed Wales hard and hit the woodwork twice.
After Hartson opened the scoring though ten minutes from time with a header, the hosts chased the game and pushed men forward. Bellamy sealed the win after the Latvian defence was left exposed on 88 minutes slotting the ball home superbly.
Wales’ coach Mark Hughes will be delighted but will acknowledge that the scoreline flattered his team.
A fantastic strike by Velri Bhozinov earned Bulgaria a hard fought 1-1 draw against Republic of Ireland last night.
Hristo Stoickov, making his debut as Bulgaria coach watched Bhozinov slam home a rising left footed drive from 15 yards on 64 minutes to cancel out an Andy Reid free kick in the first half.
Besides the goal, Ireland did little to raise pulses in the subdued Dublin crowd.
Ireland boss Brian Kerr said: “A lot of players could have done better. But it’s early in the season and they’ll be a lot sharper when we play Cyprus and Switzerland in September.”
One positive was the return of Chelsea winger Damien Duff who produced glimpses of magic on his return to international duty.
Northern Ireland continued to make encouraging progress under Lawrie Sanchez by earning a respectable 0-0 draw against Switzerland in Zurich last night.
An under-strength team kept a third consecutive clean sheet as Northern Ireland, unbeaten in the last six games, extended their best unbeaten run since 1986.
The Irish nearly snatched a winner, but Stuart Elliot’s six-yard header was cleared off the line by Swiss captain Johann Vogel.
A jubilant Sanchez boasted: “If we perform in our World Cup games like we did in the first half, then we will finish bottom of the group with not many goals. But if we play like we did in the second half we will upset a few people.
“Our problem was that we showed our opponents too much respect. Once we got over that and started to express ourselves we were much better and I was much happier.”
An exciting encounter in Solna between Sweden and Holland ended in a 2-2 draw as Marco van Basten began his reign as the Dutch coach.
Sweden took the lead on just four minutes when Mattias Jonson converted Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s pass.
Wesley Sneijder levelled with a fine strike on 17 minutes, and the Oranje went in front before the break when Mark van Bommel headed home.
But Ajax striker Ibrahimovic delighted the home crowd when he slammed home Eric Edman’s pass with 20 minutes left.
Van Basten said: “The match taught us that we have to improve defensively. At the start we had problems with their positional play but by the end of the first half, we improved.”
Marcello Lippi kicked off his reign as Italy coach with the worst possible start as the Azzurri were beaten 2-0 away from home in Iceland.
A lacklustre Italian team, without Juventus star Alessandro del Piero who was dropped by Lippi, never looked threatening throughout the 90 minutes. Lippi must use all his coaching expertise to lift his team ahead of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
Chelsea striker Eidur Gudjohnsen opened the scoring after 17 minutes and Gylfi Einarsson shocked the Italians when he doubled the advantage moments later.
Luis Aragones first game as Spain coach saw his side produce a sharp display of attacking football by beating Venezuela 3-2 in Las Palmeras last night.
Two goals from Fernando Morientes and a Raul Tamudo strike sealed victory, with Venezuela’s goals coming from Jorge Rojas and Rafael Castelin.
The win marks the start of a new era for the Spanish national team who were disappointing in Euro 2004.
Aragones was full of praise for the contribution of Jose Antonio Reyes, who came on a second half substitute.
“Reyes is in extraordinary form at the moment,” Aragones told reporters after the friendly in Gran Canaria. “He has got real spark and his presence helped change the game.”
France were unable to give new coach Raymond Domenech a dream start to his reign as they were held 1-1 by Bosnia-Herzegovina in Rennes last night.
Dommenech, who has seen the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Marcel Desailly retire, fielded a new-look, inexperienced French team.
They took the lead early on six minutes through debutant Pegguy Luyindula of Lyon. But Ivica Grlic netted shortly before the break to spoil Domenech’s night.
But the French boss praised his young players saying: “We played well and caused them problems. This is a young team that will get better the more they play together. We must rebuild the team and I feel we have a brilliant young squad.”
Germany won their international friendly against Austria in Vienna 3-1, giving new German coach Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to smile about.
Striker Kevin Kuranyi of Stuttgart scored a hat trick to seal a morale boosting victory over their European neighbours.
Kuranyi struck after only two minutes and added two more on 61 and 73 minutes.
Martin Amerhauser had levelled the game in the 10th minute for the Austrians.
Klinsmann gave debut caps to Chelsea’s Robert Huth and Frank Fahrenhorst.
The coach said: “It’s always nice to start off winning. We played well and deserved the victory.”
Peter Madsen netted an incredible hat-trick as Denmark thrashed Poland 5-1 in Warsaw.
The Danish hit man bagged goals on 23, 30 and 90 minutes, while Claus Jensen and Thomas Gaardsoe were also on target.
Thomas Buffel netted twice as Belgium drew 2-2 with Norway who had goals by Frode Johnsen and Vidar Riseth to thank for a share of the spoils.
European Champions Greece drew 0-0 with Czech Republic in Prague in what was a repeat fixture of the Euro 2004 semi-finals.
Jan Koller had the best chances for Czech Republic, while Greece nearly stole it at the end when Angelos Basinas’ free kick shaved the post.
Lurie Miterev scored on 68 minutes to hand Moldova a 1-0 victory over rivals Georgia while a Michael Constandinou double saw Cyprus beat Albania narrowly by 2-1.
Nastja Ceh grabbed a 1-1 draw for Slovenia at home to Serbia and Montenegro who had led through Nenad Jestrovic.
Croatia beat Israel 1-0 thanks to a headed goal by Jose Simunic in Zagreb, while Faroe Islands won the battle of the minnows against Malta 3-2 at home.
Goals by Luciano Galetti and Mario Santana handed Argentina a 2-1 win over Japan in Shizuoka, while Russia withstood a stiff test to see off Lithuania 4-3.
In Turkey, Hakan Suker put the home side ahead early on against Belarus.
But the visitors battled hard in the second half and pinched the game 2-1 much to the anger of the Turkish fans.
World Champions Brazil turned on the style as they crushed Haiti 6-0 away from home.
Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira took his team to the war torn Caribbean nation in a bid to promote peace.
The crowd were treated to a feast of football as the Samba stars showed of their skills. Barcelona’s Ronaldinho bagged a hat-trick as Brazil cruised to victory.
South Africa won 2-0 in Tunis against Tunisia, while Senegal lost to Ivory Coast 2-1 in a match played in Avignon, France.
Elsewhere, Jordan and Azerbaijan drew 1-1 in the National stadium, Amman, while Mali beat Congo 3-0 in the battle of middle Africa in a match played in Paris, France.
In Africa, Kenya thrashed Uganda 4-1 in Nairobi and Zimbabwe beat Botswana 2-0 in Bulawayo.