Soccer World Cup

Takeaways From First Set of Pre-World Cup Friendlies

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International Friendlies Takeaways

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International friendlies leading up to the World Cup can really tell a lot about the teams participating in the summer tournament. Some friendlies match up two teams competing in the World Cup, others feature teams that missed out on going to Brazil. Nonetheless, international friendlies are an important part of the lead up to big event.

Most countries attempt to field the somewhat strongest team possible for the matches, while maintaining a deep bench to give crucial players a rest. Others experiment with their starters to see who might impress and earn a spot on the initial 30-man roster, then the subsequent 23-man finalized roster.

Notable matches from the first set of friendlies included: Brazil vs. South Africa, Ukraine vs. United States, Germany vs. Chile, Belgium vs. Ivory Coast, England vs. Denmark, France vs. Netherlands and Spain vs. Italy. Each of these matches had underlying storylines that would unfold as the day progressed.

Diego Costa made his controversial debut for Spain after choosing the world champions over his birth nation Brazil, the Ukraine and United States match went as planned amidst the turmoil and the previous World Cup host faced the current World Cup host just to name a few.

With a number of high profile matches now concluded, let’s take a look at what sort of impression the notable countries competing in Brazil left on us.

Zachary Holden is a Soccer writer for Follow him on Twitter (@Zachary_Holden), "Like" him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.

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Brazil vs. South Africa

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The host nation didn’t disappoint as it walloped South Africa, the 2010 World Cup host, 5-0 at Soccer City. Neymar was in fine form netting a hat trick while Oscar and Fernandinho added goals to cap off the day for the Brazilians. The big win is sure to give the hosts a sense of pride and momentum as the tournament edges closer with each passing day.

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Ukraine vs. USA

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The fact this friendly even happened is still a surprise. The unrest in the Ukraine meant, initially, this match was called off…then it was back on…then nobody was sure. Alas, it went on as planned – albeit in Cyprus – and the Ukrainians brushed aside an experimental USMNT 2-0.

Jürgen Klinsmann decided to bring a predominately European-based USMNT to Cyprus and his decision proved to be a poor one. The only thing the USMNT and fans can take away from this match is that the depth in the national team isn’t quite there.

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Belgium vs. Ivory Coast

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The Belgians had their hands full against the Ivory Coast in a match that finished 2-2 after a very late equalized from Max Gradel brought the African powerhouse level.

Belgium allowed the Ivory Coast to score two late goals, which brings forth questions of their quality over 90 minutes. With the majority of the defenders in the squad centralized, some changes must be made to ensure the Red Devils don’t squander results like this in the tournament. One possibility is to switch to a 3-5-2 and take advantage of the plethora of midfield options to make up for the somewhat weak defense.

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England vs. Denmark

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Although the Three Lions won 1-0 over Denmark, the match as a whole was fairly boring, something English fans won’t be happy about as the World Cup approaches. Still without a starting XI set in stone, Roy Hodgson needs to start focalizing his squad and preparing them to face the type of opposition they’ll see in Brazil and not struggle against lower opposition such as the Danes.

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France vs. Netherlands

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Sneaking into the World Cup, France had a lot to prove against the 2010 World Cup runner-up. Les Bleus manhandled the Oranje 2-0 and probably should’ve won by more. The French look good and with an easy World Cup group, could make a deep run. The Netherlands on the other hand, have a lot of work to do in the next two months if they want to make it back to the finals.

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Spain vs. Italy

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Costa made his much-anticipated debut for Spain. Aside from a few glimpses of brilliance, it’s clear he’s still trying to gel with the squad. The Italians held their own for the most part and managed to only lose by a 1-0 margin. A rather uneventful game as a whole between two of the favorites entering the World Cup.