Italy makes poor start to WCup qualifying

AP, Saturday 8 Sep 2012

Argentina defeated visiting Paraguay 3-1 in South American qualifying as Lionel Messi scored on a spectacular free kick following goals by Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain

Cesare Prandelli
Italy's head coach Cesare Prandelli reacts during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against Bulgaria at Vassil Levski stadium in Sofia September 7, 2012. (Photo: REUTERS)

Italy was held to a 2-2 tie at Bulgaria, and England, Germany, France and the Netherlands got off to winning starts Friday night in their first matches in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.

Argentina defeated visiting Paraguay 3-1 in South American qualifying as Lionel Messi scored on a spectacular free kick following goals by Angel Di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain, while Colombia routed Uruguay 4-0 and Ecuador beat Bolivia 1-0.

Jamaica rallied to beat the United States 2-1 in Kingston as Rodolph Austin and Luton Shelton scored on free kicks. With their first win in 19 games against the Americans, the Reggae Boyz overcame Clint Dempsey's goal 35 seconds in - the fastest U.S. goal in a qualifier.

''Jamaica deserved that win. They were hungrier and they were more determined,'' U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. ''We have to fix it now.''

Canada beat visiting Panama 1-0, with Dwayne De Rosario scoring off Atiba Hutchinson's quick free kick in the 77th minute - his Canadien record 20th international goal. Mexico won 2-0 at Costa Rica in a late game in the North and Central America and the Caribbean region, getting goals from Carlos Salcido in the 43rd minute and Jesus Zavala in the 51st.

Defending champion Spain and World Cup host Brazil won exhibitions, but the Selecao was jeered at home for its lackluster 1-0 win over South Africa.

Showing little of the form that took the team to the European Championship final in the summer, Italy was denied victory when Georgi Milanov equalized for 89th-ranked Bulgaria in the 66th minute at Sofia

Stanislav Manolev beat goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon with a 30-yard shot to put the hosts ahead in the 30th minute, but Pablo Osvaldo gave the Azzurri a 2-1 lead with his first two international goals, in the 37th and 40th minutes.

''A point is OK,'' Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said. ''We always have problems at the beginning of the season. It's a shame we didn't manage to score a third goal, when we were winning 2-1.

That was the only big surprise of the opening group of qualifiers, although Portugal was hardly impressive in rallying to a 2-1 win over Luxembourg as Cristiano Ronaldo scored the equalizer for the visitors and celebrated, give days after refusing to celebrate goals for Real Madrid because he said he was ''feeling sad.''

Daniel Da Mota put the hosts ahead with a 30-yard drive in the 14th minute, Ronaldo tied it in the 27th with his 37th international goal and Helder Postiga scored the go-ahead goal in the 54th.

England won 5-0 over Moldova for its biggest road victory margin in 19 years. Frank Lampard converted a third-minute penalty kick after Tom Cleverley's shot struck Simion Bulgaru's arm, then doubled the lead with a header in the 29th.

Jermain Defoe, in his 50th international appearance, made it 3-0 in the 32nd. James Milner added a goal in the 74th and Leighton Baines completed the scoring in the 83rd as third-ranked England overwhelmed its 141st-ranked opponent.

Defender John Terry limped off with two minutes remaining and it is unclear whether he will play in Tuesday's qualifier against Ukraine at Wembley.

England's previous road win by five or more goals was 7-1 at San Marino in a World Cup qualifier in November 1993.

''It's the first match in a qualifying group for a World Cup, which is always a nervous occasion,'' England manager Roy Hodgson said. ''You're always concerned you'll not produce the performance you want, or the result, but we got off to the best possible start and controlled the game throughout. I don't think the scoreline flattered us.''

The Netherlands beat visiting Turkey 2-0 on goals by Robin Van Persie in the 17th and Luciano Narsingh in second-half injury time to end a four-game losing streak. Germany won 3-0 at home against the Faeroe Islands as Mario Goetze opened the scoring in the 28th minute, and Mesut Oezil added goals in the 54th and 72nd.

France won 1-0 at Finland on Abou Diaby's 20th-minute goal in coach Didier Deschamps' first competitive match as France coach. The standout score came in Liechtenstein, where the hosts were routed 8-1 by Bosnia.

Defending champion Spain won 5-0 at home over Saudi Arabia in an exhibition as David Villa scored in his return to the national team.

Making his first appearance for Spain since November after recovering from a broken leg, Villa converted a 64th-minute penalty kick for his 52nd international goal. Pedro Rodriguez scored in the 27th and 73rd minutes, while Santi Cazorla got a goal in the 23rd and Xavi Hernandez in the 47th, just after replacing Cesc Fabregas at the start of the second half.

Fernando Torres made his 100th appearance for Spain before Villa replaced him in the 53rd.

At Sao Paulo, Hulk scored in the 75th minute for five-time World Cup champion Brazil, whose unimpressive display increased pressure on coach Mano Menezes.

''The fans have the right to behave any way they want, we can't change that,'' Menezes said. ''But we need their support to put this team together for the World Cup. It will be easier if they are on our side.''

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