Chile coach fired minutes after friendly loss to Serbia
LONDON, England ● Claudio Borghi was fired as Chile coach after a 3-1 loss to Serbia on Wednesday in an international friendly, the team’s fifth defeat in a row.
Borghi said he was asked to step aside only minutes after the defeat in St. Gallen, Switzerland, adding that he would miss what he called the best chapter of his life.
Borghi, an Argentine, took over the national team in February 2011 after Marcelo Bielsa stepped down.
He had been under fire due to the run of losses and a tense relationship with several players and the media, some of whom said he would never be able to adequately replace Bielsa.
Bielsa, who is also an Argentine, qualified Chile for the 2010 World Cup and got the team to the second round. He was very popular with fans but left the team after a dispute with the Chilean football federation, moving to Spanish club Athletic Bilbao.
Chile has struggled in South American qualifying for the 2014 World Cup. At the midway point, Argentina has 20 points to lead the standings, three ahead of Ecuador and four up on Colombia. Uruguay, Chile and Venezuela have 12 each.
The top four qualify for the World Cup and the fifth team faces a playoff for a further spot. Brazil qualifies automatically as host.
Chile will have time to find a new coach. South American qualifying for the World Cup resumes in June.
Spain 5, Panama 1
Pedro Rodriguez scored twice as Spain defeated Panama 5-1 in an international friendly on Wednesday.
David Villa, Sergio Ramos and Markel Susaeta got the other goals for the defending World Cup and European champions. Gabriel Gomez scored for Panama in the 86th minute to cut the lead to 5-1.
The long trip to the Panamanian capital did not slow Spain, which needed about 15 minutes to get rolling against the overmatched Central Americans.
“We took this match very seriously,” Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said. “We didn’t give them many chances and later we had good finishing on every goal.
Panama coach Julio Dely Valdes said the unthinkable: “We enjoyed this. But you can’t judge yourself against a team like Spain.”
Pedro opened the scoring in the 16th minute, combining on a pass from Barcelona teammate Andres Iniesta. Villa made it 2-0 in the 28th, again on a pass from Iniesta, and Pedro netted his second just before the break.
Ramos scored on a free kick in the 81st and Susaeta got his in the 83rd.
Surprisingly, the match was not sold out despite offices being closed in the capital two hours before kickoff.
Spain keeper Victor Valdes had little to do and was substituted in the 58th by Iker Casillas.
Portugal 2, Gabon 2
Portugal was held to a 2-2 draw by Gabon without injured captain Cristiano Ronaldo on Wednesday in an international friendly in which three penalties were awarded.
Portugal came from behind to lead 2-1 through Hugo Almeida’s goal in the 59th minute. But Andre Biyogo Poko buried a 70th-minute penalty to earn a committed Gabon a draw against the world’s No. 4-ranked team in the first meeting between the countries.
Levy Madinda gave Gabon the lead from the spot in the 32nd after a questionable decision from Ghanaian referee Joseph Lamptey, who produced a shaky performance all night in Libreville. Portugal equalized with its own penalty from Pizzi three minutes later.
Lamptey also awarded Gabon a goal late in the first half when the ball clearly had not crossed the line and had to be corrected by his assistant referee amid furious protests from the Portuguese.
Missing Manchester United’s Nani as well as Real Madrid star Ronaldo, Portugal fell behind after Silvio was penalized for a foul in the area by Lamptey. It appeared a poor decision.
Madinda scored, only for Portugal to hit back immediately after Eder was dragged down for the game’s second penalty.
Almeida controlled and poked the ball into an empty net after Gabon’s defence and goalkeeper were caught out midway through the second half.
But Poko took advantage with a third penalty kick after a handball by Custodio to give Gabon a draw.
U.S. 2, Russia 2
Playing just his third game for the Americans, 22-year-old midfielder Mix Diskerud scored his first international goal on a 20-yard shot 2:50 into four minutes of injury time, giving the United States a 2-2 tie against Russia.
Michael Bradley, who scored in the 76th minute, sent a long ball into the penalty area toward Terrence Boyd. Defender Sergei Ignashevich tied to clear the ball but his header went on one hop to Diskerud. His right-footed shot took a bounce and spin in off the left hand of goalkeeper Vladimir Gabulov.
“It was a long ball and I was hoping with all my heart that it would come back to me and it did,” Diskerud said. “I got a nice strike.”
Fedor Smolov, making his Russian national team debut, gave the hosts the lead in the ninth minute following a giveaway by Danny Williams, who mis-hit the ball trying for a quick free kick in his own half.
Bradley tied it on a 19-yard volley, his 11th international goal. Maurice Edu passed to Juan Agudelo in the penalty area, and Agudelo headed the ball back to an open Bradley for a right-footed shot that clanked in off the post to Gabulov’s right.
Roman Shirokov put Russia back ahead 2-1 when he converted a penalty kick in the 84th minute after a foul by Clarence Goodson, who pushed over Artem Dzyuba in front of goalkeeper Tim Howard following a free kick.
IThe 27th-ranked United States, missing regulars Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Steve Cherundolo, are preparing for the final round of qualifying next year for the 2014 World Cup. They finished the year at 9-2-3 with a .750 winning percentage that tied their best in the modern era, set in 2005. The U.S. had two big firsts, beating Italy and winning at Mexico City, and its only defeats came in an exhibition against Brazil and a World Cup qualifier at Jamaica.
The ninth-ranked Russians are 4-0-2 since former England coach Fabio Capello took over last summer.
Argentina 0, Saudi Arabia 0
Saudi Arabia held Argentina and Lionel Messi to a 0-0 draw in a friendly match on Wednesday. Messi and Sergio Aguero struggled for much of the night to showcase their talents, with neither posing much of a threat to the Saudi goal.
The Argentine side did have several chances just before halftime but Pablo Zabaleta’s shot was saved and Messi then failed to connect with Eduardo Salvio in the area.
Saudi Arabia had the best chances of the second half, with Yasser Al Qahtani twice denied by keeper Sergio Romero.
The run-up to the match was dominated by the chaotic arrival of Messi to Riyadh Monday, with security guards unable to control the crowds at the airport and one soldier inadvertently pointing his gun toward the Argentine star.
Uruguay 3, Poland 1
Luis Suarez scored in the second half to seal a 3-1 win for Uruguay over Poland in a friendly in Gdansk on Wednesday.
Uruguay took the lead through an own goal from Poland’s Kamil Glik in the 21st minute with a failed clearance. Edinson Cavani doubled Uruguay’s lead to 2-0 in the 34th minute after receiving a quick centre pass from Suarez.
Ludovic Obraniak pulled one back for Poland in the 64th with a long shot into the upper right corner of Fernando Muslera’s goal but Uruguay responded immediately with a solo effort from Suarez two minutes later.
The Liverpool striker rounded Poland keeper Przemyslaw Tyton in the penalty area before sealing the win.
Uruguay played with quick and precise passing throughout the game at the European Championship stadium in Gdansk, while Poland lost its momentum after the own goal and tried to slow the pace down after that.
Zambia received a timely boost ahead of the defence of its African Cup of Nations title with a confident 1-0 win over tournament host South Africa in a friendly on Wednesday.
Fellow Cup of Nations hopefuls Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria all lost at home.
Elsewhere in Africa, Congo had its Cup of Nations preparations hampered by a 1-0 loss to Burkina Faso in Morocco. Another finalist, Angola, drew 1-1 with Republic of Congo.
Ghana beat Cape Verde 1-0 in Portugal, while Ivory Coast, the Cup of Nations title favourite, impressed in a 3-0 win away in Austria.
Collins Mbesuma’s powerful 64th-minute strike gave Zambia its victory and sealed South Africa’s fate after a disjointed performance at home from Bafana Bafana under new coach Gordon Igesund, who still doesn’t appear to know who his 11 best players are.
“I was disappointed we didn’t win the game tonight,” Igesund said. “We’re not a team yet.”
Mbesuma’s drive into the top left corner wasn’t the only low point for next year’s tournament host, with the pitch at Soccer City in a poor state after a rock concert and reported problems with fans after the game when Zambia goalkeeper Kennedy Mweene was hit by a stone thrown toward the visiting players as they boarded their bus.
Mweene, who plays club football in South Africa, needed stiches to a cut on his head, according to the goal.com website.
Morocco lost 1-0 at home to Togo to underline new coach Rachid Taoussi’s tough task at the Cup of Nations after he replaced Belgian Eric Gerets recently.
Switzerland beat Tunisia, also at home, with Xherdan Shaqiri’s injury-time winner. The Tunisians were down to 10 men after defender Rami Bedoui was sent off.
Algeria fell 1-0 at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina after another late goal to complete the misery for the North African trio.
French coach Claude le Roy has transformed Congo into a promising team, but it lost to fellow African Cup finalist Burkina Faso in El Jadida, Morocco, after Rennes midfielder Jonathan Pitroipa’s first-half penalty.