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Germany’s Erik Durm (right), and Cameroon’s Benjamin Moukandjo challenge for the ball during a soccer friendly match between Germany and Cameroon in Moenchengladbach, Germany, June 1. (AP)
Germany held by feisty Cameroon US raise WC hopes as slick Belgium brush aside Sweden; France draw

MOENCHENGLADBACH, Germany, June 2, (RTRS): World Cup contenders Germany came from a goal behind to draw 2-2 with hard-working Cameroon on Sunday in their penultimate game before this month’s tournament in Brazil. The Germans, who play Armenia on June 6 in their final warm-up, looked still some way off top form as they seek to end an 18-year title drought, missing several key players including captain Philipp Lahm and first-choice keeper Manuel. Germany coach Joachim Loew must name his final 23-man squad by Monday’s deadline. Loew’s side almost got off to a perfect start when Mesut Ozil, completely unmarked in front of goal, somehow managed to shoot wide seconds after the kickoff.

The Germans, drawn with Ghana, the United States and Portugal in Group G, came close again as attacking midfielder Mario Goetze, playing as a lone striker, sent in a low drive which was turned on to the post by Cameroon keeper Charles Itandje. Cameroon, playing hosts Brazil, Croatia and Mexico in Group A, had trouble containing their opponents’ pace down the wings and needed to wait around 20 minutes before Samuel Eto’o got a shot on target. A series of tough tackles from the Africans threw the hosts off balance and gave the visitors the initiative.

German keeper Roman Weidenfeller was called into action late in the first half, making a superb save in the 39th minute when Eto’o sent Benjamin Moukandjo clear and he also blocked a close-range Joel Matip effort.
Cameroon stunned the Germans in the 62nd minute when Eto’o’s shot was saved by Weidenfeller but the forward was in the right place to tap in a subsequent cross. Their joy was short-lived, however, with Thomas Mueller charging into the box to head in a Jerome Boateng cross four minutes later and Andre Schuerrle tapping in after a surging run by substitute Lukas Podolski. But Cameroon refused to lie down and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting confirmed his outstanding form this season with Mainz 05, picking up the ball outside the box and drilling an unstoppable left-foot shot past Weidenfeller in the 78th minute.

US 2, Turkey 1
The United States continued their solid build-up to the World Cup with a 2-1 win over Turkey, raising expectations of a good showing in Brazil. Defender Fabian Johnson combined with Michael Bradley to score a superbly executed goal in the first half before Clint Dempsey added a second after the re-start. Turkey, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, got a consolation goal in the last minute of normal time when Selcuk Inan converted a penalty after Geoff Cameron was ruled to have handled the ball in the box. Turkey were unlucky not to score earlier when their captain Nuri Sahin hit the post in the first half but had difficulty containing the Americans as the match went on.

Playing in front of a full house at Red Bull Arena in New Jersey, the US showed some anxious moments in defence, allowing the Europeans to breach their last line on a handful of occasions, but held firm and looked sharp in attack. Jozy Altidore had an early goal disallowed for making contact with the Turkish goalkeeper Onur Recep Kivrak before Johnson gave the home team the lead with a spectacular goal in the 26th minute.
Bradley, the heartbeat of the American team, deftly flicked the ball over the Turkish defence into the path of Johnson who hit a perfect left-footed volley into the net for his first international goal. Dempsey gave the Americans a 2-0 lead in the 52nd minute with a typical poacher’s goal, poking the ball in after Kivrak fumbled Timmy Chandler’s cross from the left.

Beligum 2, Sweden 0
In Stockholm, a brilliant solo effort from Eden Hazard after Romelu Lukaku’s opener were enough to give Belgium a comfortable 2-0 win over Sweden in their penultimate World Cup warm-up game in Stockholm. Despite training twice a day for most of the week, there was no sign of tiredness from the Belgian players as they dominated the opening exchanges, with Kevin De Bruyne almost giving them the lead after 15 minutes, only to see his shot hit the post. Lukaku, who scored 15 goals for Everton in last season’s Premier League, broke the deadlock in the 34th minute when he fired a fizzing left-foot drive past Andreas Isaksson after Kim Kallstrom surrendered possession deep in his own half.

The sluggish Swedes, who will be spending the summer at home after losing a World Cup playoff to Portugal, struggled to create in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who missed the game due to a back injury. Ola Toivonen glanced a header wide just before the break and Jimmy Durmaz skimmed the top of the crossbar with a long-range effort in the second half, but in truth there was little to trouble Thibaut Courtois in the Belgian goal. The visitors coasted for much of the second half until Hazard put the game beyond doubt in the 78th minute. The Chelsea winger cut in menacingly from the left before playing a one-two with De Bruyne and slotting home.

De Bruyne almost netted a goal in stoppage time but his effort following a counter-attack shaved the outside of Isaksson’s post as it flew wide. Belgium face Tunisia on June 7 in their final warm-up game before opening their Group H campaign against Algeria on June 17 in Belo Horizonte.

France 1, Paraguay 1
In Nice, France, France were held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay in a World Cup warm-up game, amid concerns surrounding the fitness of Franck Ribery. Forward Antoine Griezmann curled a perfect effort from inside the box into the far corner eight minutes from time after France had dominated the match, but Paraguay’s Victor Caceres equalised in the 89th with a downward header from a free kick. In heavy rain at the Allianz Riviera stadium, France combined well but lacked a cutting edge as coach Didier Deschamps made several changes to test his 23-man squad. “We cannot win all matches 4-0. We found the back of the net but then we sat back a little bit too much,” said Deschamps.

“We knew that we would be up against a defensive team. There were some good things. We are not at our best but we still have time.” Ribery’s fitness remains a major concern with the Bayern Munich winger suffering from lower back pain. “We will do our best so that he can be available for next Sunday,” Deschamps said. Griezmann has played in Ribery’s position on the left flank against Paraguay and in their previous friendly against Norway, with his impressive displays giving reason for optimism. France, who play another friendly against Jamaica in Lille next Sunday, start their World Cup campaign with a Group E game against Honduras before taking on Ecuador and Switzerland.

After beataing Norway 4-0 last week, Paraguay proved a tougher opponent. Before opening the scoring, France’s best chance came in the 59th minute when Olivier Giroud’s header was tipped over the bar by Anthony Silva. Arsenal forward Giroud started the game in the absence of Karim Benzema, who was rested along with Real Madrid team mate Raphael Varane, after the Spanish club won the Champions League final last weekend. In 2002, France coach Roger Lemerre took Zinedine Zidane to the World Cup after the playmaker had injured his thigh in their last warm-up game against South Korea. Zidane could only play in the final group game against Denmark and made no impact as Les Bleus crashed out in the first round.

Honduras 2, Israel 4
In Houston, who face France in their World Cup opener in two weeks’ time, suffered a second straight defeat in a warm-up for the tournament with a 4-2 loss to Israel in Houston. Honduras lost 2-0 to Turkey in their opening friendly on Thursday and once again they struggled against UEFA opposition. Israel’s early pressure paid off when they grabbed the lead in the 34th minute through a superb strike from Eran Zahavi, who grabbed the ball outside the area and drove it into the bottom corner. Two minutes after the break, though, Honduras equalised with an even more spectacular goal - Roger Espinoza unleashing a fierce left foot drive from 25 metres which crashed in off both posts.

It took only five minutes for Israel to restore their advantage, however, with Tal Ben Haim’s harmless looking shot deflected in off Honduras defender Maynor Figueroa. Israel went 3-1 up on the hour when Gil Vermouth struck the upright and Omer Damari reacted well to control the loose ball and slot home. Vermouth got his reward in the 74th minute, adding Israel’s fourth with a low diagonal strike that went in off the far post after a smart head down from Bebar Natcho. Honduras grabbed a consolation seven minutes from the end when Espinoza found Carlo Costly at the back post and the big striker headed in. After playing France, Honduras must tackle Ecuador and Switzerland in World Cup Group E. The Central Americans face England in their final warm-up game on June 7 in Miami.

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