Ukraine beats USA in football friendly as Kosovo takes bow

Mar 6, 2014

Matches take on diplomatic significance as Brazil send warning to rest of the world

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/Getty Images

ENGLAND'S dour victory over Denmark at Wembley last night will not linger long in the memory of the fans who forked out to watch it. However, there were some significant games around Europe on a night when the entire football world appeared to be in action.

There were more than 30 games across Europe featuring teams from all six continents.

Possibly the most significant, for non-footballing reasons, was the clash between Ukraine and the USA, which took place in Cyprus after being moved from Kharkiv in the wake of the revolution and Russian occupation of Crimea.

There were only 2,000 fans in the ground for the match between Ukraine, the highest-ranked side in the world not to make it to Brazil, and the US who will be at the World Cup.

There was a minute's silence before the anthems in honour of those who have lost their lives in the political crisis.

"Some Ukrainian fans came with banners to support their country, while others appeared glad to have something to take their minds off what was happening at home," reports CNN. "A 2-0 win thanks to goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Devic may not register on the national consciousness at this moment in time - but it gave them a brief respite from the trouble their country has endured."

Russian leader Vladimir Putin may not have been impressed to see Ukraine forging sporting links with the US, and his mood is unlikely to have been improved by the international debut of Kosovo, the independent Balkan state that is not recognised by Russia.

However, six years after declaring itself independent from Serbia the former Yugoslavian province played as a nation for the first time and drew 0-0 against Haiti. Despite pleas from the country's FA Manchester United starlet Adnan Januzaj declined an offer to turn out for Kosovo.

In footballing terms the match of the night took place at Millwall, where Australia threw away a 3-0 half time lead to lose 3-4 to Ecuador.

English fans can take some pleasure from the travails of Germany, who put in a lacklustre show against Chile. The home side did win 1-0 but they were booed off the pitch in Stuttgart. However, their failure was relative, as Chile easily beat England at Wembley last year.

Diego Costa made his Spain debut in Madrid as the world champions beat Italy 1-0 in another match that failed to live up to expectations. 

The hosts of this summer's tournament, Brazil, did turn on the style to confirm their status as favourites as they beat South Africa 5-0 in Johannesburg, thanks to  a hat-trick from Neymar and goals from Oscar of Chelsea and Man City midfielder Fernandinho.

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