With the start of the World Cup in Brazil just over two weeks away, the 32 competing nations are now beginning to finalise their preparations as expectations and excitement builds for 12th June.
The boys at bwin report on how Belgium, Russia, Cameroon and Australia fared over the Bank Holiday weekend and how their respective coaches are lining up with the big kick-off in sight.
Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku was the star for Belgium, hitting a hat-trick as Marc Wilmots’ side got their World Cup friendlies off to a winning start by hammering Luxemburg 5-1 in Genk.
With Christian Benteke of Aston Villa injured, the spot at the focal point of Wilmots’ preferred, flexible 4-2-3-1 is up for grabs and the Everton loanee did his chances no harm with three goals inside 54 minutes.
Tottenham’s Nacer Chadli and Kevin De Bruyne added the other strikes as Wilmots went with what looks like his first choice XI, with Manchester United youngster Adnan Januzaj making his international debut as a second-half substitute.
Fabio Capello will be hoping to mastermind a better campaign than the one he managed with England in South Africa four years ago, and his preparations with Russia got off to a winning start with a workmanlike 1-0 win over Slovakia in St Petersburg.
The former Real Madrid chief picked a strong starting XI, with seven of the line-up certain of their place in Russia’s Group H opener against South Korea, but had to wait until the 82nd minute for the breakthrough in a match of few chances.
Capello chose Aleksandr Kokorin as a lone frontman, but it was his replacement Aleksandr Kerzhakov that headed the winner eight minutes after coming on as Russia stuck to the 4-2-3-1 formation the Italian has used since taking charge.
Samuel Eto’o missed out through injury, but Cameroon nonetheless got their pre-Brazil friendlies off to an encouraging start by defeating Macedonia 2-0 in Kufstein.
It was Eto’o’s replacement as the lone striker Pierre Webo that opened the scoring after 54 minutes, but the Fenerbahce striker is now in danger of missing the World Cup after injuring his arm scoring the elaborate overhead kick.
Hamburg forward Jean-Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting scored the second, his ninth international goal in 19 caps, as Volker Finke continues to hone his 4-1-4-1 formation, with Barcelona’s Alex Song protecting the back-four.
Ange Postecoglou continued to tinker with his team’s formation in Sydney as Australia were held to a 1-1 draw against South Africa, with the Socceroos signing off in front of their home faithful before the heading to Latin America for the World Cup.
Postecoglou carried on with his deployment of Tim Cahill as the team’s lone frontman and was rewarded when the former Everton star equalised just one minute after Ayanda Patosi gave the 2010 hosts a 13th-minute lead.
Postecoglou switched from 4-4-2 and 4-2-3-1 to a 4-3-3 formation for the first time, saying that he hoped it may benefit the team that the central midfield trio of James Holland, Mark Milligan and James Troisi could offer more mobility.