By TATE STEINLAGE
It was a busy day for international friendlies on Saturday. A total of 11 World Cup squads were in action, with 11 other sides playing for respect and experience days before the world turns its eyes to Brazil for the main event.
Two of those World Cup teams, the Netherlands and Ghana, went head to head at De Kuip in Rotterdam, Netherlands with the 1-0 result favoring the Dutch.
Dutch forward Robin van Persie scored the game’s lone goal five minutes into the match. The Netherlands were unable to find a second score, but after dominating the better part of the 90 minutes with 13 shots — five of those on goal — they didn’t need it.
Louis van Gaal’s defense suffocated the speedy Ghana side, allowing just one shot on goal in five attempts.
Elsewhere on the international stage, a Portugal side without Ronaldo nor Pepe mustered a scoreless draw against Greece, while Italy lost a major player in their World Cup squad during a 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland.
Here’s a closer look at Saturday’s international friendlies:
PORTUGAL DRAW WITH GREECE DESPITE MISSING STARS
Missing Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe to injury, Portugal played Greece to a scoreless draw at the National Stadium in Lisbon, Portugal.
An early chance from defender Ricardo Costa looked like it would put the Portuguese up 1-0, but a tremendous save from Greek goalkeeper Orestis Karnezis would keep the match scoreless and mark the last true scoring opportunity for Portugal.
Greece, too, had limited chances due to a lack of the possession as Portugal dominated the tempo for much of the match despite missing midfielder Joao Moutinho.
ITALY LOSE KEY MIDFIELDER IN SCORELESS DRAW TO IRELAND
Italy has bigger problems following a scoreless draw with the Republic of Ireland than just its lackluster attack.
The Italians lost midfielder Riccardo Montolivo, reportedly due to a broken tibia after colliding with Republic of Ireland defender Alex Pearce early in the match. Sideline reports state that Montolivo could be heard moments after the challenge saying, “It’s broken.”
Italy’s attack deflated from there, and the result was just three shots on goal in 90 minutes of action. The Republic of Ireland couldn’t take advantage of Italy’s lull despite putting seven shots on frame in 16 attempts, keeping the match 0-0 all the way until the final whistle.
COLOMBIA FORWARDS NET TWO IN DRAW TO SENEGAL
Colombia had possession and took advantage, but its defense couldn’t do the same in a 2-2 draw with Senegal.
Colombian forwards Teofilo Gutierrez and Carlos Bacca scored in the 11th and 45th minute respectively, on a night where the team held a staggering 73 percent advantage in possession.
Senegal roared back from being down 2-0 with two goals in five minutes from midfielders Moussa Konate and Cheikh Ndoye in the 47th and 52nd minute.
PERISIC BRACE HELPS BOOST CROATIA PAST MALI
Croatia’s Ivan Perisic was productive Saturday in a 2-1 victory over Mali. The midfielder had two goals on two shots to help his team survive a last-gasp effort from Mali.
Perisic got on the score sheet in the 15th minute and then again in the 64th minute before Mali substitute midfielder Cheick Mady Diarra got one back for his team in the 79th minute.
ALGERIA SCORE THREE IN FIRST HALF TO BEAT ARMENIA
World Cup-bound Algeria looked like a team on the rise, at least for 45 minutes, as the side scored three first-half goals en route to an easy 3-1 win over Armenia.
Algeria goals came from defender Essaïd Belkalem and forwards Nabil Ghilas and Islam Slimani in the 13th, 22nd, and 41st minutes respectively.
Armenia was able to steal a goal back just out of the halftime break with a score from substitute forward Artur Sarkisov, but that would prove to be the only time Armenia would celebrate.
RUSSIA SCORE EARLY, DRAW WITH NORWAY
Russia had the momentum early but Norway stole it late, as the two squads played to a 1-1 draw.
The Russians got on the board in the third minute with a goal from midfielder Oleg Shatov, who led his side with five shots on the day.
Norway’s response came more than 70 minutes later when midfielder Anders Agnes Kondrasen found the back of the net in the 77th minute to deadlock the score at one-a-piece.
ROMANIA STEAL A GOAL LATE TO TOP ALBANIA
Better late than never. That was the mantra for Romania, who scored a late goal to get by Albania 1-0 Saturday.
The lone score came in the 82nd minute from Romania defender Razvan Dinca Rat.
Albania was shutout by Romanian goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu in the match featuring two sides who will be absent in this summer’s World Cup.
FINLAND WIN 2-0 IN SECOND HALF SURGE
Finland scored twice in the final 45 minutes to cruise by Estonia in an international friendly between two sides on the outside looking in of this year’s World Cup.
Goals were scored in the 49th and 87th minutes by midfielder Perparim Hetemaj and defender Valtteri Moren respectively at Ventspils Stadions in Ventspils, Latvia.
EARLY GOAL BOOSTS LATVIA TO VICTORY OVER LITHUANIA
A defender found the back of the net in a friendly between Latvia and Lithuania Saturday. That player was Latvia’s Nauris Bulvitis, and he was the only player to score in what proved to be a defensive match.
Bulvitis scored an early goal in the sixth minute and helped anchor a strong defensive effort to help his side squeak by Lithuania at Daugava Stadium in Riga, Latvia.