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International review, plus Roig and Pires

Let's begin with the appetizer, shall we? Giuseppe Rossi did indeed captain Italy against Romania, at least for the first half. Italy's coach Prandelli started a young lineup that hadn't played together much, and it showed. Rossi and Balotelli didn't get much service from midfield in a lackluster first half, and when they did Balotelli tried to do too much himself, although he had some impressive moments. Italy made wholesale changes at the break and Giuseppe had the rest of the night off; I doubt he was troubled by that too much. The game ended 1-1, which was about right.

Spain had a big celebration earlier this week to celebrate winning the World Cup, and it's good they did, because on the evidence of their play against Portugal, they're not going to win another one for a while. Highlights are here if you wish to watch them.

As it turned out, Joan Capdevila was the only Villarreal player starting the match, and he played all 90 minutes. I hope he's in good shape for Saturday, because he looked awfully tired by the end. Portugal threatened early; the match was very open, with Spain attacking mostly down the wings and Portugal countering at speed. Spain's best chance was created by Capdevila half an hour in-- he exchanged passes with Iniesta, broke down the wing and then crossed beautifully for David Silva, whose free header flew wide. However, both he and Sergio Ramos, who had a woeful game, were caught upfield time and time again by Portuguese counterattacks, and the center backs, especially Pique, were slow to cover. Portugal led 1-0 at the half, and if a goal had not been incorrectly ruled out it would have been two. Maybe the joint WC bidders wanted to remind FIFA to take a look at goal-line technology, because Ronaldo's exquisite chip had clearly crossed the line before Nani headed it into the back of the net from an offside position.

Marchena came on for Pique at the break, and soon scythed down Martins in the middle of the pitch, though he wasn't booked for it. Unfortunately Fabregas and Torres also came on at the break, for Xavi and David Villa. Torres looked unfit, and Fabregas never got into the game enough. (Maybe Busquets was still tired from playing us, because he was poor as well). Without any attacking punch, the midfielders found it hard to control possession, and the tiring defense was carved open time and time again. Capdevila was at fault for the second goal, but Ramos was time and again the weakest link in a very shaky line of defense which continually got caught up the pitch.

Santi Cazorla came on about 60 minutes in; he did absorb one hard foul but seemed OK, made some good passes, had one nice shot from outside the area that went just wide, and also put in a couple of fine crosses, one of which Llorente could've done better with.

Overall, the night, and the match, clearly belonged to Portugal. Friendly or not, this was a rout. The 4-0 scoreline didn't flatter Portugal at all, and I wondered how they would have done in the World Cup if they had believed in themselves more and been willing to open the game up and attack, as they did today. I can't imagine our three members of La Furia Roja will want to spend much time reliving this one, and hopefully they will all be ready for Saturday and the Valencian derby.

Finally, Jefferson Montero played the last 35+ minutes of Ecuador's friendly against Venezuela. The score was 4-1 to Ecuador when he came in, and that's the way it ended. He was nearly put through on goal within about 20 seconds of entering the match, and interestingly, though he started on the right wing, he soon moved to the left and showed some good things there. I was glad to see him pass more than we have seen on occasion, and in fact he could've had a couple of assists if teammates had put shots on target. A decent runout for him.

Apologies to Hernán Pérez of the B team, who was in action for Paraguay in their 7-0 romp over Hong Kong.

A couple of other notes: in case you missed it, President Roig is all for that "yellow alternative" talk (as well as more equitable sharing of TV rights), and our old friend Robert Pires is set to return to England with Aston Villa and is the subject of a long article here, with some nice photos of him in yellow.