Fekir helps France tocomfortable win over Ireland

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 May 2018 11:50:51


Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir were on target as France stepped up their World Cup preparations by beating the Republic of Ireland 2-0 in Paris on Monday evening.
Chelsea striker Giroud bundled in the opener at the Stade de France, and Lyon captain Fekir—who has been linked with a move to Liverpool—got the second just before the break, with a helping hand from Ireland goalkeeper Colin Doyle.It was a very comfortable victory for Didier Deschamps’ side in the first of three friendly matches before they head to Russia.Les Bleus will also host Italy in Nice on Friday and the United States in Lyon on June 9, with their opening World Cup fixture against Australia in Kazan on June 16.

France’s strength in depth, which they showcased here on a night of torrential rain, thunder and lightning, means they are among the contenders to win the tournament, 20 years after becoming world champions on home soil.
However, far bigger tests lie in wait than that provided by Martin O’Neill’s Ireland side. The visitors’ starting line-up featured seven players who turned out in the English Premier League in the season just finished, but they hardly got near the ball all evening.Balotelli scores as Mancini starts Italy reign with a winSt Gallen (Switzerland) Mario Balotelli got new Italy coach Roberto Mancini off to a winning start by scoring the opener in a 2-1 win over Saudi Arabia in Saint Gallen on Monday.

Saudi Arabia face hosts Russia in the opening match of the tournament on June 14 while four-time champions Italy stay home following their failure to qualify for the first time in 60 years.Made the scapegoat for Italy’s first-round exit from the 2014 World Cup, Balotelli’s four-year hiatus from the Azzurri squad ended when he was recalled by Mancini, appointed six months after Italy’s shock failure to qualify for Russia following a playoff defeat to Sweden.
Ronaldo-less Portugal held by Tunisia

Braga (Portugal)

AC Milan striker Andre Silva hit a landmark 1000th goal for the hosts but there was little to celebrate as Cristiano Ronaldo-less Portugal were held 2-2 by Tunisia in a on Monday.Still smarting from a 3-0 defeat to the Netherlands in Geneva last March, Portugal fans were hoping for a morale-boosting win less than two weeks before they head to Russia.But the defending European champions, who face Spain, Morocco and Iran in Group B, largely flattered to deceive.Ronaldo and his goal scoring exploits would have been welcome in Braga, but the Portugal striker was given time off following Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final on Saturday.Portugal coach Fernando Santos gave Silva the nod and, despite a lack of playing time at Milan, the 22-year-old did well to head home the opener from Ricardo Quaresma’s pinpoint cross on 22 minutes. It was the 1000th goal scored in Portugal colours. Portugal doubled their lead on 34 minutes when Joao Mario, who has also endured a tough season in Italy with Inter Milan and a loan move to West Ham, pounced on a poor clearance from a corner to fire a rocket into the top corner from the edge of the area.

Portugal are likely to still be without Ronaldo when they face Belgium in Brussels on June 2 and Algeria in Lisbon on June 7.
Mexico open WC
preparation with
draw against Wales
Pasadena (California), May 29 (AP)

Mexico started its World Cup preparations with a 0-0 draw against Wales at the Rose Bowl on Monday night.Playing the first of three tuneup matches before its Group F opener against defending champion Germany on June 17 in Moscow, a rampant El Tri attack could not find a way to beat Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.Hennessey made several impressive saves, including sticking out his right foot to deny Mexico captain Hector Herrera’s shot in the 56th minute from the edge of the 6-yard box.Hennessey also tipped Herrera’s shot from outside the penalty box over the crossbar in the 40th minute and parried away Javier Aquino’s attempt in the 22nd minute.
Improved France among WC favourites: O’Neill


Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill believes France are quite capable of winning the World Cup after seeing them get the better of his team in a friendly on Monday evening.France won 2-0 on a wet night, with Olivier Giroud and Nabil Fekir scoring the goals in the first half, and Ireland struggled to get near the ball at the Stade de France. “They are very strong, indivdually they have got a lot talent in their team. I think they’re one of the favourites for the World Cup,” said O’Neill.It was the first meeting of the sides since Antoine Griezmann’s goals gave hosts France a 2-1 win in Lyon in the round of 16 of the last European Championship.Only three France players in Monday’s game—Adil Rami, Giroud and Blaise Matuidi—also started in that match at Euro 2016.“I don’t want to put pressure on their coach, but I think they have improved in the last two years” said O’Neill.