May 27, 2012, 08.52 AM | Source: Reuters
SOCCER-EUROPE:German pride dented by Swiss, Spain win warm-up
LONDON (Reuters) - German pride took a second bashing in eight days on Saturday as their Euro 2012 countdown began in earnest with a humbling 5-3 friendly defeat by Switzerland but European champions Spain and tournament co-hosts Poland enjoyed useful victories.
A week after Germany's biggest club Bayern Munich suffered Champions League final heartache against Chelsea, Joachim Loew's national team were stunned by a hat-trick from Eren Derdiyok who will not grace the finals after the Swiss failed to qualify.
It was a mixed night for the various Euro 2012 qualifiers as they fine-tuned their squads for the tournament that kicks off with Poland versus Greece on June 8 in Warsaw.
World Cup runners-up Netherlands, who like Germany are fancied to challenge for the title next month, suffered a surprise 2-1 home defeat by Bulgaria.
England, rated as outsiders after an unsettled few months following Fabio Capello's resignation, kicked off Roy Hodgson's tenure as national coach with a workmanlike 1-0 win in Norway -- their first in the Scandinavian country for 32 years.
Spain, who will defend the title they won four years ago when they beat Germany in the final, fielded a below-strength side without any Barcelona players against Serbia in St Gallen, Switzerland, but still had enough in reserve for a 2-0 win.
Adrian Lopez, one of four debutants for Spain, scored the opener with Santi Cazorla also netting with a penalty.
There was concern for Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque, however, as Barca midfielder Cesc Fabregas was ruled out for up to 10 days with a hamstring strain.
Poland, staging the finals with neighbours Ukraine, beat Slovakia 1-0 although there was some disturbing news for the hosts with second choice goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski being ruled out with a shoulder injury.
Defender Damien Perquis headed Poland's winner in Warsaw.
Germany coach Loew did not use any Bayern Munich players against Switzerland, handing opportunities to some of the less heralded members of the squad.
However, he was given food for thought as Germany suffered their worst defeat at the hands of the Swiss since 1908.
"We made far too many mistakes," Loew, who will announce his final squad next week, told reporters.
"I did not expect this result though I knew it could be dangerous because of the many training sessions we have had until now. I knew that we could be lacking this freshness."
Germany take on Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark in the tournament starting in a fortnight - a tough group that may be beyond some of the players who appeared on Saturday.
Derdiyok, a new signing for Bundesliga club Hoffenheim, slotted Switzerland ahead after 21 minutes and struck again two minutes later with Germany's defence in disarray.
Defender Mats Hummels pulled a goal back just before the break but Derdiyok completed his hat-trick soon after the interval before Andre Schuerrle made it 3-2.
In a frantic spell, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Admir Mehmedi scored for Switzerland either side of Germany's third goal of the night from Marco Reus.
Netherlands also have much to ponder after a surprise defeat by Bulgaria in Amsterdam.
Robin van Persie put Bert van Marwijk's side ahead just before the break but Ivelin Popov equalised from the penalty spot and Ilyan Mizanski grabbed the winner in stoppage time.
Van Marwijk's mood was not helped by a hamstring injury to defender Joris Mathijsen who limped off.
"Joris felt something in his hamstring and wanted to avoid any risk," Van Marwijk told reporters. "It was an annoying match especially after the penalty, before that we did everything well although we did not create a lot of chances."
England's new coach Hodgson, appointed on May 1 to replace Italian Capello who guided the team to the finals, said he was satisfied with the performance of an experimental side which featured Liverpool's Andy Carrol and Ashley Young up front.
They could form England's attack in the Euro 2012 opener against France in the absence of Wayne Rooney, who is suspended for the first two matches, and Young's classy ninth-minute strike did his chances no harm.
"I thought he (Carroll) was good. Full stop. Not only was he good for us when we had the ball... he was also very important to us defensively," said Hodgson, whose main concern was a groin injury to midfielder Gareth Barry.
Portugal were jeered by their own fans after a disappointing 0-0 draw with Macedonia while Greece, who will travel to the finals aiming to produce another shock like they did in 2004 when they were European champions, drew 1-1 with Slovenia.
Denmark lost 3-1 to Brazil after Hulk scored twice for the South Americans in Hamburg but fellow Euro 2012 outsiders Ireland and Czech Republic secured morale-boosting wins, against Bosnia and Israel respectively.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Ken Ferris)