France, who England face in their first group game in Euro 2012 in Donetsk on 11 June, demonstrated how far they have progressed under coach Laurent Blanc by beating Germany 2-1 in Bremen last night.
The Germans are joint favourites to triumph in Poland and Ukraine along with world champions Spain but were lacking the injured Bastian Schweinsteiger and captain Philipp Lahm and were shocked by France, who have now gone 18 games unbeaten. The visitors grabbed the lead after 21 minutes when Olivier Giroud connected with a Mathieu Valbuena pass to beat keeper Tim Wiese.
Chelsea’s Florent Malouda fired in from close range midway through the second half before Germany substitute Cacau cut the deficit in stoppage time.
“We knew that Germany were very strong offensively but we had studied a few weaknesses in the defence,” Blanc said. The Germany coach Joachim Löw agreed. “We had too big gaps in defence,” he admitted.
Of England’s other group opponents, Ukraine won 3-2 in Israel, Oleg Gusev with a penalty, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andrei Yarmolenko scoring for Oleg Blokhin’s side who remain undefeated since September.
Sweden also won away, outclassing Croatia to win 3-1 in Zagreb with Zlatan Ibrahimovic outstanding. Ibrahimovic gave the Swedes the lead with a penalty in the 13th minute, but Croatia equalised through a Jonas Olsson own goal on the stroke of half-time. Sunderland’s Sebastian Larsson restored Sweden’s lead immediately after the restart when he was set up by Ibrahimovic and the Milan striker also laid on Larsson’s second in the 68th minute.
Italy slumped to a 1-0 defeat at home to the United States, Fulham’s Clint Dempsey getting the winner 10 minutes into the second half. Two goals in the last three minutes gave Lionel Messi yet another hat-trick as Argentina beat Switzerland 3-1, while Spain thrashed Venezuela 5-0, Valencia’s Roberto Soldado also scoring three.