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SOCCER

Argentina defeats Germany, 1-0, in World Cup warmup

German fans boo their team off the field in the loss in Munich. Elsewhere, Spain beats France and England rallies to defeat Egypt.

March 03, 2010|By Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

A day or two before Germany's World Cup warmup match against visiting Argentina in Munich on Wednesday night, veteran German international Michael Ballack decided it was time to expose the Argentines for what he thinks they are.

"They know all the tricks and secrets," said Ballack, who has a few of his own. The Chelsea midfielder suggested that fooling opponents and sometimes referees is part of the Argentine soccer psyche — a la Diego Maradona's deliberate hand-ball goal against England at the 1986 World Cup.

"Together with their quality, it's the way they understand football," he said. "They have the full repertoire.

"In character, we're very different from the South Americans and that's no secret. Perhaps it's something they learn from their childhood. It's part of the game, and you have to take it into account when you play them.

"It makes them very difficult opponents, but also very interesting when they stay within the boundaries."

Whether Argentina took offense was unknown, but Wednesday night the South Americans responded the best way possible, defeating Germany, 1-0, and sending the home team off the field to a chorus of boos from its fans.

It was not the Argentines who failed to "stay within the boundaries," but rather German goalkeeper Rene Adler, who in a rash moment rushed far out of his net to try to stop the danger presented by Gonzalo Higuain and instead gave Higuain the chance to steer the ball into the unguarded net just before halftime for the game's only goal.

Ballack's contribution included accidentally breaking the cheekbone of Argentina's Martin Demichelis when he caught the midfielder in the face with a knee.

"We dominated in every part of the field," Maradona, now Argentina's coach, said.

It was a busy day for World Cup teams getting ready for the tournament in South Africa in June.

In Paris, the pressure of France Coach Raymond Domenech was ratcheted up a few more notches when Les Bleus were soundly beaten, 2-0, by Spain, which got first-half goals from David Villa and Sergio Ramos.

Like Germany, France was booed off the field at the Stade de France, with fans calling for Domenech's head. The loss was the first suffered by France to Spain in 42 years.

"I don't understand this attitude," Domenech said of the fans' reaction. "The players need support from the crowd when they are struggling."

Domenech, long under fire from all quarters, plans to step down after the World Cup and is likely to be replaced by either Laurent Blanc or Didier Deschamps, both 1998 World Cup winners now coaching in the French league.

Despite the presence of such players as Franck Ribery and Thierry Henry in their lineup, the French were outplayed by the Spanish, the top-ranked team in the world and the World Cup favorite.

In London, two second-half goals by Peter Crouch and another by Shaun-Wright Phillips enabled England to come from behind to defeat Egypt, 3-1, at Wembley Stadium.

England's players suffered the same humiliation as the Germans and French, being booed off the field at halftime, but they rebounded to win and make Mohamed Zidan's first-half goal for Egypt no more than a footnote.

England, which begins World Cup group play against the U.S. on June 12, is likely to take Crouch to South Africa, especially with the 6-foot-7 striker having scored 20 goals in 37 games for his country.

"Crouch is a big option for me because sometimes you can play long ball," England Coach Fabio Capello said. "Today, we didn't, and he played very well with one touch, two touches. In the second half, he made the difference."

Wright-Phillips came on as a second-half substitute for starter Theo Walcott. Both players feature on the right flank, meaning that there was no opportunity for David Beckham to make his 116th appearance for England.

The English football association announced Wednesday that England's final two warmup games before naming its team June 1 and leaving for South Africa on June 3 will be against Mexico in late May and against Austria in Graz, Austria, on May 30.

Italy, the defending world champion, was held to a 0-0 tie Wednesday by Cameroon in Monte Carlo in a game in which both coaches tried out several new players.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

Times wire services contributed to this report.

Jones reported from Los Angeles

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