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Japan, France, U.S. all win as World Cup looms

Japan, France, U.S. all win as World Cup looms

SOCCER:Fans of the U.S. wave their U.S. national flags before an international friendly soccer match against Azerbaijan in San Francisco, California May 27. Photo: Reuters/Stephen Lam

(Reuters) – France, Japan and United States recorded solid victories on Tuesday as the finalists continued their preparations with the start of the World Cup just over two weeks away.

France 4-0 Norway (Paris)

France winger Mathieu Valbuena was in a class of his own as he set up three goals in a 4-0 victory at home to Norway to help his side start their World Cup warm-up games in style.

Valbuena excelled in a one-sided encounter, providing perfect crosses for Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud, who netted twice, to get on the scoresheet along with substitute Loic Remy.

“Scoring four goals is never easy at international level, it’s good for our confidence,” France coach Didier Deschamps told TF1.

U.S. 2-0 Azerbaijan (San Francisco)

The United States got their World Cup preparations off to a positive start with a comfortable 2-0 friendly win over a well-disciplined Azerbaijan at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on Tuesday.

Substitute Mix Diskerud pounced to drive home from close range in the 75th minute before Aron Johannsson headed a second eight minutes later.

Juergen Klinsmann suffered a blow shortly before kick-off when Clint Dempsey was withdrawn with a ‘sore groin’ but the German told ESPN that the forward should recover from his injury in a few days.

Japan 1-0 Cyprus (Saitama)

Fullback Atsuto Uchida slotted the only goal as a dominant Japan grabbed a 1-0 victory over Cyprus in a largely uninspiring World Cup send off in front of 59,000 fans.

The Schalke O4 defender, on his return to the Japan side after a thigh injury curtailed his season in Germany, drove home at the second attempt two minutes before halftime after his initial effort was blocked.

Shinji Kagawa, Yoichiro Kakitani and Keisuke Honda went close to adding to the lead for the Japanese, who dominated possession and were rarely tested in defense.

“I think the team did okay. We had a physically hard training camp in Ibusuki so there was not so much sharpness, but our decision making was good,” Japan coach Alberto Zaccheroni told reporters.

May 26: Russia 1-0 Slovakia

Fabio Capello picked a strong team for their win over Slovakia in St Petersburg with Zenit St Petersburg forward Alexander Kerzhakov heading the only goal eight minutes from time.

Alexander Kokorin thought he had put Russia in front after latching on to a glorious through ball by Sergei Ignashevich before lifting the ball over goalkeeper Jan Mucha but English referee Mark Clattenburg ruled it out for offside.

Australia 1-1 South Africa

Australia showed few signs that they might buck their underdog status at the World Cup as they struggled to a tepid 1-1 draw against an under-strength South Africa in Sydney.

More than 50,000 turned out at the Olympic Stadium to bid farewell to the Socceroos before they depart for the finals but the home side labored to break down Bafana Bafana.

Both the goals came inside a minute early in the first half with Ayanda Patosi’s 13th-minute effort for South Africa canceled out by Australia’s stand-in captain and leading international goalscorer Tim Cahill.

Australia face world champions Spain, 2010 runners-up the Netherlands and Chile in Brazil.

Belgium 5-1 Luxembourg

Belgium got back to winning ways after a four-match sequence without a victory as Romelu Lukaku hit a hat-trick to secure a 5-1 friendly win over Luxembourg.

Three weeks before their World Cup opener, Belgium showed off the neat passing that has prompted many to tip them to do well in Brazil and also blooded three debutants, including 19-year-old Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj. Substitute Nacer Chadli scored Belgium’s fourth while Kevin De Bruyne converted a 91st minute penalty.

Macedonia 0-2 Cameroon

Pierre Webo and Eric Maxim Choup-Moting scored second-half goals as Cameroon beat Macedonia 2-0 at a friendly in the neutral Kufstein Arena, in Austria.

Montenegro 0-0 Iran

Neither side was able to break the deadlock as Iran were held to a 0-0 draw by Montenegro at the Hartberhg stadium in Austria.

(Reporting by Patrick Johnston; Editing by Ed Osmond/Greg Stutchbury)

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