With the World Cup now less that two weeks away, Manchester United’s South Africa bound internationals were involved in a busy weekend playing a number of warm up matches for their countries. The most interesting action did not involve football however but the sight of Serbia stand in Nemanja Vidic playing the role of peacemaker as he picked up a microphone and urged fellow Serbs for calm as his side suffered a shock 0-1 defeat to New Zealand in Austria.
Hundreds of Serbian thugs rampaged through the stadium in Klagenfurt as trouble erupted in the second half. Frustrated fans amongst the estimated 10,000 mostly expatriate Serbs hurled flares and missiles as dozens of them reacted to their team’s poor performance. They invaded the pitch and engaged in running battles with stewards as the Kiwis threatened to walk off.
As it turned out Henry Kissinger would have been proud of Vidic’s diplomatic efforts as his pleas for order worked like a charm allowing the game to restart after having been held up for several minutes. As for the football itself, Vidic and United’s Zoran Tosic played the full 90 minutes of a typical warm up exercise full of substitutions and little serious application by the Serbs.
That was the fourth time during the last week that a World Cup side was skippered by a Manchester United player as Vidic joined Patrice Evra, Rio Ferdinand and Ji Sung Park in showing that there is plenty of leadership qualities at Old Trafford.
The stand out performance by a United player was that of new signing Javier Hernandez as he netted twice to earn Mexico a comfortable 5-1 win over Gambia in Bayreuth, Germany. ‘Chicharito’ has now scored three times in his last two matches and although he was substituted after 55 minutes he has surely cemented his position in Mexico’s World Cup squad.
Evra was replaced after 64 minute as France recovered from conceding an early goal in Tunisia to snatch a 1-1 draw while Ji Sung Park played the full 90 minutes in South Korea’s 0-1 defeat against Belarus in front of barely 1,000 fans and will complete their preparations with a stern test against Spain in Innsbruck on Thursday. Nani’s Portugal had a match free weekend before they tackle Cameroon on Tuesday and then complete their preparations on Sunday with a match against Mozambique.
Finally England had to rely on two own goals to defeat Japan 2-1 on Sunday and were far from impressive. Skipper Rio Ferdinand did not appear to be at all comfortable and looked shaky at the back. As captain, he needs to take more of a commanding role in organising his back four.
Like Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney played the full 90 minutes but was not happy with the passing and showed flashes of his short fuse as a result. He forced a great second half save out of goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima and overall put on another good performance which clearly made him England’s biggest threat.
Michael Carrick did not get any game time and must now be wondering whether he will be on the plane to South Africa. It will be a frustrating 24 hours for him only getting some comfort from a newspaper report that manager Fabio Capello has already decided on his final 23 players. He is then reported to have made the telling comment that nobody was able to force his way into his original squad. If that’s the case, Carrick can start packing his bags.
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