Diego Maradona enjoyed a winning start as Argentina coach with a 1-0 victory over Scotland on Wednesday while Marcello Lippi equalled a world record in charge of Italy.
Among the pick of the other friendlies in Europe, a late header from captain John Terry earned England a 2-1 win against old foes Germany, European champions Spain swept Chile aside 3-0 and Robin van Persie’s brace helped The Netherlands beat Sweden 3-1.
Elsewhere, World Cup runners-up France were held scoreless at home to Uruguay, and in the only World Cup qualifier on Wednesday, the Czech Republic got their bid to reach the finals in South Africa back on track with a 3-0 win over lowly San Marino.
Maradona waited just eight minutes for his first goal in charge of Argentina when Maxi Rodriguez rounded off a slick, defence-splitting move that echoed moves orchestrated by his new boss when he captained the South Americans to victory at the 1986 World Cup.
Scotland regrouped and threatened to spoil Maradona’s party, but their best efforts were denied by Argentina goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo and some desperate defending.
”Argentina had 25 brilliant minutes at the beginning and couldn’t put away more chances. It was a totally fair result,” Maradona told a news conference.
”We gave the ball away later on but Scotland were unable to profit from that …We could have had the ball more and won by more,” added Maradona, who scored his first Argentina goal as an 18-year-old at Hampden in a 3-1 win over the Scots in 1979.
Italy coach Lippi equalled the world record of 31 successive international games without defeat after Luca Toni equalised in the 54th minute to secure a 1-1 draw for the world champions against Greece who led through Fanis Gekas four minutes earlier.
The draw in Athens took Lippi — in his second stint with Italy — level with Javier Clemente of Spain and Alfio Basile of Argentina and also saw him beat the Italian record of 30 set by Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.
Despite gifting Germany an equaliser, England skipper Terry made amends with a header six minutes from time to secure a 2-1 win over Germany in Berlin and give coach Fabio Capello his fifth successive win.
England took the lead midway through the first half when German goalkeeper Rene Adler missed an attempted punch from a corner, leaving defender Matthew Upson to prod the ball home.
But after the break Terry chose to shepherd the ball back toward England’s replacement keeper, Scott Carson, who hesitated and allowed Patrick Helmes to nip in and help himself to an equaliser.
”It shows the strength in depth of the squad, which is vital. You’re not always going to have everyone available.” said Capello, who was missing experienced players like Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney, Frank Lampard and David Beckham.
Germany coach Joachim Loew, who was also without key players, admitted England ”were the better team” in his side’s first defeat since losing to Spain in the final of Euro 2008.
The Spanish continued their good form since becoming European champions with a convincing 3-0 win at home to Chile.
David Villa’s penalty, a neat finish by Fernando Torres and Santi Cazorla’s deflected shot leaves Spain unbeaten in 28 games and top of Fifa’s world rankings.
”I was very happy with today’s [Wednesday] match,” Torres, who is just back from injury, said in a television interview. ”The team is playing well and winning.”
Elsewhere, Van Persie scored twice and Dirk Kuyt added a third as the Dutch ran out easy 3-1 winners against Sweden, who netted through Kim Kallstrom, but there was disappointment for France who were held scoreless by Uruguay in Paris.
”It was a bit better in the second half … we put more rhythm into the match. We did not concede a goal, that’s a good point,” France coach Raymond Domenech told reporters.
Three second-half goals in quick succession from Radoslav Kovac, Zdenek Pospech and substitute Tomas Necid gave the Czech Republic a 3-0 win over San Marino.
The Czechs had won one, drawn one and lost one of their first three Group Three qualifiers, but now trail leaders Slovakia by two points. — Reuters