World Cup watch

March 4, 2010 Tags: International 3 comments

During the summer Rant will provide comprehensive coverage of the FIFA World Cup, held in South Africa, with unashamed red tinted specs. Manchester United will have nine participants at the finals – England’s Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Michael Carrick and Wes Brown; Patrice Evra of France; South Korea’s Ji-Sung Park; Nemanja Vidic and Zoran Tosic from Serbia; and Nani with the Portugal squad.

During the tournament, which kicks off on 11 June with hosts South Africa taking on Mexico and ends in Johannesburg a month later, Rant will debate the key issues of the day on the blog, provide in-depth analysis on our weekly World Cup Rant Cast and offer readers the chance to join in on the website’s groups.

Last night, in what for most countries was the final friendly before coaches name provisional World Cup squads, nine United players were on international duty:

Wayne Rooney, Wes Brown and Michael Carrick: England 3-1 Egypt

Rooney had a quiet and at times frustrating night for England. Out of the game in the first half, Rooney was livelier in the second period before departing the game with a few minutes to spare. Brown, meanwhile, was solid in defence if wasteful in possession during the first half.

Carrick’s night was perhaps the most productive in an England shirt as the classy midfielder clawed England back into the game by doing something alien to the England team – passing the ball!

Patrice Evra: France 0-2 Spain

The Spanish team is head and shoulders above the rest at the moment and Evra must hope that hapless coach Raymond Domenech can bring some order to the apparent chaos in the French camp before the summer. David Villa and Sergio Ramos scored for the Spanish who must start as favourites for the tournament.

Nani: Portugal 2-0 China

Hugo Almeida and Liedson scored the Portuguese goals, although reports suggest an impressive outing for the United winger before being substituted after a little more than an hour.

Mame Biram Diouf: Senegal 2-0 Greece

Diouf played 20 minutes in the African’s win over the 2004 European champions. Senegal, who did not qualify for South Africa, introduced the United reserve team sensation to good effect late in the game but the striker failed to get on the scoresheet.

Corry Evans: Northern Ireland 0-1 Albania

Jonny Evans’ younger brother was impressive as a second half substitute for the Northern Irish. Evans, who can operate in defence or midfield for United, made his début in the disappointing loss to the Eastern European minnows.

Park Ji-Sung: South Korea 2-0 Ivory Coast

South Korea’s captain continued his good recent form as his team beat the African giants at Loftus Road of all places. Lee Dong-Gook and Kwak Tae-Hwi scored the goals for the World Cup qualifiers.

Darren Fletcher: Scotland 1-0 Czech Republic

Fletcher, Scotland’s captain, helped ensure a winning start to new manager Craig Levein’s tenure at Hampden Park. The Czech’s are not the force of old but right now any win for Fletcher’s side is a bonus. Celtic’s Scott Brown scored the only goal just after the hour.

Darron Gibson: Republic of Ireland 0-2 Brazil

Gibson got half an hour against a functional Brazil side, which will be among the favourites for World Cup 2010 but are not the entertainers of old. But Gibson played second fiddle to Manchester City’s Robinho as the Selecao ran out comfortable winners at the Emirates

Tomasz Kuszczak, Dimitar Berbatov: Poland 2-0 Bulgaria

Team-mates pitted against each other in Eastern Europe as the Polish ‘keeper gained dressing-room bragging rights in a comfortable win. Kuszczak, who showed impressive United form before Edwin van der Sar’s return, made a series of saves against Berbatov’s World Cup flops

Reds World Cup round-up

October 11, 2009 Tags: International No comments

Manchester United’s players are off on international duty this week, with many facing crucial World Cup 2010 qualifying matches. Indeed, while the English contingent has already qualified, Patrice Evra, Nani, John O’Shea and Antonio Valencia face make-or-break fixtures over the next few days.

Group 1 has become one of the Europe’s tightest races for a play-off spot. Nani’s Portugal has brought itself back into the mix with a 3-0 win over rivals Hungary. The victory, where the United winger featured as a first half substitute for the injured Cristiano Ronaldo, leaves Portugal second with a single point advantage over Sweden. With runaway leaders Denmark already qualified, Portugal will secure a spot in the play-offs with a victory over Malta in Lisbon on Wednesday.

Johnny Evans’ Northern Ireland travel to Prague for their last Group 3 match against the Czech Republic on Wednesday. Evans’ team still harbours a faint chance of making the finals via a playoff spot but will have to beat the home side, hope that Slovenia lose in San Marino and turn around a seven goal difference. With San Marino yet to score a point in this qualification campaign, Evans is likely to enjoy a long summer break.

In Group 6 Ukraine  beat leaders England 1-0 by in Dnepropetrovsk. England, already qualified for the finals in South Africa next year, included United’s Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney in a starting eleven that slipped to its first defeat of the qualifying campaign. Fabio Capello’s side completes its group programme at home to Belarus this week. It’s a match for which under-fire Ben Foster returned to the squad having recovered from bruised ribs.

There was a better result for Nemanja Vidic’s Serbia in Group 7. Vidic’s team  locked up qualification with a thumping 5-0 win over Romania in Belgrade. The win consigns Patrice Evra’s France to the play-offs, although almost inconceivably United’s outstanding left-back continues to be left out of Raymond Domenech’s stuttering side. The French beat the Faroe Islands by a similar score in Guingamp.

John O’Shea played at right-back for Giovanni Trapatoni’s Republic of Ireland in Dublin. The home side twice took the lead against World Champions Italy in Group 8, but were pegged back to 2-2 in the last minute of the match. The result means that Ireland will have to qualify for the finals in South Africa via the play-offs. Dimitar Berbatov’s Bulgaria, beaten heavily in Cyprus, has no chance of qualification. The United forward scored on the stroke of half-time.

Outside of Europe, Antonio Valencia scored in Ecuador’s 2-1 home loss to Uruguay in Quito. The defeat in the penultimate South American match-day puts Ecuador’s place in serious jeopardy. Valencia’s side travel to Santiago for the last game against qualifiers Chile needing a win. Valencia must also hope that other results goes his way to make the finals , probably via the South American play-off.