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Thursday , December 3 2020

Germany lose 3-1 to Slovaks in Euro warm-up – Nolito makes Spain Euros case with double

AUGSBURG, Germany, May 29, (Agencies): A second-string Germany side suffered a 3-1 Euro 2016 warm-up washout to Slovakia on Sunday as heavy rain threatened to force the encounter to be scrapped in the second half.

The Slovaks recovered from a goal down, scored by forward Mario Gomez from the penalty spot, to win the friendly thanks to goals from Marek Hamsik, Michal Duris and Juraj Kucka.

World Cup winners Germany, facing Poland, Ukraine and Northern Ireland in Group C next month in France, imploded after a solid start, suffering a third loss in four matches.

Germany coach Joachim Loew rested several key players, including Thomas Mueller, Marco Reus and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, giving several youngsters a chance to impress him ahead of the final 23-man squad announcement on May 31.

Gomez put Germany ahead after 13 minutes, though the hosts deserved more in a dominant first period despite also missing injured captain Bastian Schweinsteiger and Mats Hummels plus Real Madrid’s newly-crowned Champions League winner Toni Kroos.

The visitors struck late in the half with their first two chances as Germany’s makeshift defence was caught napping.

Marek Hamsik found far too much space, with central defender Jerome Boateng hesitating at the edge of the box, and unleashed a fierce shot past keeper Bernd Leno after 41 minutes.

Michal Duris’ glancing header at the near post two minutes later put Slovakia, who have been drawn in Group B along with England, Russia and Wales, ahead.

Heavy rain and lightning delayed the start of the second half by about 20 minutes as Leno made way for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in Germany’s goal.

But things did not improve under the Barcelona keeper, who let a weak Juraj Kucka shot slide through his legs seven minutes after the restart to complete a soggy evening for the 2014 world champions, who play Hungary in their final warm-up next week.

Meanwhile, Celta Vigo forward Nolito strengthened his case for inclusion in Spain coach Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Euro 2016 with his first two international goals in a 3-1 friendly win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Saint Gallen, Switzerland, on Sunday.

Del Bosque named an experimental side with no players from Champions League finalists Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid or those sides involved in domestic Cup finals last weekend, including Barcelona and Bayern Munich, other than out of favour Barca defender Marc Bartra.

Nolito has been included in Del Bosque’s provisional 25-man squad — which will be trimmed to a definitive list of 23 on Tuesday — after leading Celta to Europa League qualification with 12 goals this season.

And it would be a huge surprise if the former Barcelona man is now cut from the squad as he curled expertly into the far coner before delightfully chipping Bosnia’s Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to make it 2-0 after just 18 minutes.

Hamburg defender Emir Spahic halved Bosnia’s deficit when he headed home from a corner just before the half hour mark.

However, Spahic then got himself needlessly sent-off just before half-time when he clashed with Cesar Azpilicueta.

Having named three debutants in goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo, Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin and Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio in his starting line-up, Del Bosque handed four more youngsters their international debuts in the second-half.

However, it was one of the old guard in Chelsea forward Pedro Rodriguez who added the third deep into stoppage time.

Spain have two more warm-up friendlies against South Korea in Salzburg, Austria, on Wednesday and Georgia in Madrid on June 7 before they begin their defence of the European Championships against the Czech Republic in Toulouse on June 13.

In Rome, there is no stopping master goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in his ambition to add more major titles to his collection of the 2006 World Cup and seven Serie A championships.

Buffon, who will lead Italy in France when they look to end a 48-year wait for their second European Championship crown, has extended his contract with Juventus beyond his 40th birthday as he also seeks the equally elusive Champions League.

He has been a runner-up in both, finishing on the losing side in the Euro 2012 final against Spain in Kiev.

The question is whether Antonio Conte’s Italy will be good enough to go one better even with record holder Buffon, ripening with age like a vintage Chianti, between the posts.

Buffon, Italy’s most capped player with 156 appearances, set a Serie A record in March of 974 minutes without conceding a goal.

“I was born for this type of work and to be the exception,” Buffon was recently quoted as saying in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“If it could happen that I’d be the first player to compete in six World Cups, it would certainly mean something because of its rarity,” he added with the 2018 tournament in his sights. He has seen action at the last four tournaments after being an unused reserve at France 1998.

Any goalkeeper keeping a string of clean sheets needs the help of a good defence and Buffon has that at Juventus with Italy team mates Leonardo Bonucci, Giorgio Chiellini and Andrea Barzagli, but he also has to be a rounded performer.

Buffon is a remarkable shot stopper, commanding in the air, a fine reader of opposition attacks and organiser of the defence and a respected voice in the changing room.

In Budapest, although he has probably passed his peak, Balazs Dzsudzsak is Hungary’s undisputed leader and will be a danger from set pieces at the European Championship with his trademark free kicks.

The 29-year-old winger has been the brightest star in Hungarian soccer for the last decade without living up to expectations at international level.

At Debrecan he was voted the best player of the 2006-2007 season before moving to PSV Eindhoven where he enjoyed three productive years that yielded 44 goals from 114 league games.

His deadly left foot and ability to create goalscoring chances with inch-perfect crosses made him one of the European game’s hottest prospects with Liverpool and Inter Milan reportedly tracking his progress.

To the surprise of many observers, Dzsudzsak instead opted for a move to Anzhi Makhachkala before joining another Russian team, Dynamo Moscow, in a 15-million-euro ($16.71-million) deal that made him Hungary’s most expensive player.

However, Dzsudzsak failed to reproduce his Eindhoven form at either club and 2015 saw him move to Turkish side Bursaspor.

At international level Hungary’s captain knows he must lead from the front in France to prove there is substance to all that early promise. After 76 caps and 18 goals, this could be his moment.

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