Germany break France jinx with win in Paris
JULIEN PRETOT AND JUSTIN PALMER
Germany claimed their first win over France in 26 years when goals by Thomas Mueller and Sami Khedira secured a 2-1 win in an entertaining friendly at the Stade de France today.
Both second-half goals came from France left back Patrice Evra's side of the defence as Germany fought back after Mathieu Valbuena had opened the scoring on the stroke of halftime.
Valbuena headed home from close range in the 44th minute after Karim Benzema's free kick bounced off the bar, but Mueller slotted past Hugo Lloris early the second half and Khedira wrapped it up from Mesut Ozil's pass with 17 minutes left.
Real Madrid striker Benzema missed a clear chance in the first half and has not scored for France in his last 10 appearances.
France, reeling following a poor run that lasted from 2008-12, drew 1-1 with Spain in a World Cup qualifier and beat Italy 1-0 in a friendly in their last two outings but the world's second-ranked team proved a bridge too far.
Germany were without midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, striker Miroslav Klose and Borussia Dortmund trio Mario Goetze, Marco Reus and Marcel Schmelzer, but they still dominated possession on a cold Parisian night.
France struggled in midfield but a lively Franck Ribery repeatedly threatened the German defence and Valbuena was also influential.
French president Francois Hollande and German chancellor Angela Merkel attended the game as Paris and Berlin celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Elysee treaty that sealed the post-war co-operation between the two countries.
Players from the 1982 World Cup semi-final between France and Germany were invited and among them was keeper Harald Schumacher, who was booed by the Stade de France crowd 31 years after a violent challenge on French defender Patrick Battiston during a game Les Bleus lost on penalties.
Bacary Sagna, making his comeback for France with his first appearance since Sept. 2011, broke down the right flank and picked out Moussa Sissoko in the area, only for the Newcastle United midfielder to fluff his attempt.
Khedira's low shot from just outside the box went just wide in the fourth minute as Germany got off ot a confident start.
Three minutes later, Mesut Ozil collected a through ball from Mueller but Lloris saved well with his outstretched foot.
Per Mertesacker's header was tipped on to the bar and over by Lloris in the 17th minute.
France still looked dangerous through Ribery. It was Benzema, however, who had the best chance after 27 minutes but the Real Madrid striker shot straight at Rene Adler after being perfectly set up by Valbuena.
Germany looked the better side with nice combinations in the midfield but it was France who reached halftime with a one-goal.
Benzema's curled free kick bounced off the bar into the path of Sissoko who headed the ball to Valbuena and the Marseille forward headed home from point-blank range.
The visitors deservedly levelled six minutes into the second half when Mueller connected with Ilkay Guendogan's pass to flick the ball past Lloris.
Khedira made it two in the 73rd minute with a Real Madrid made goal as he collected a through ball from Mesut Ozil before slipping it past Lloris.
France, who had a goal disallowed for offside two minutes from time, take on Georgia and Spain at home next month in World Cup qualifiers and Germany go into back-to-back World Cup qualifying fixtures against Kazakhstan.
PUYOL REACHES MILESTONE
World and European champions Spain marked defensive kingpin Carles Puyol's 100th international cap with a 3-1 victory over Uruguay in an occasionally tetchy friendly in Qatar today.
Forward Pedro continued his hot streak, scoring twice to take his tally to nine in Spain's last six games.
Pedro has struggled to make his mark for Barcelona this season but put the South American champions to the sword with two clinical finishes at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
Cesc Fabregas struck first for Spain, his swerving shot helped into the net by keeper Fernando Muslera, before Cristian Rodriguez side-footed past Victor Valdes to equalise.
After a halftime presentation to Puyol, handed the captain's armband for the occasion before the shaggy-haired stopper sat out the second half, Spain took control.
Pedro fired a low angled shot past Muslera to make it 2-1 on 51 minutes and sealed the game by finishing a Fabregas cross 16 minutes from time.
"They (friendlies) are difficult, tough games with the mentality you have to bring, the desire and the excitement," Pedro told Spanish television.
"But I think this team is doing nice and important things and once again we managed a fantastic result against a great team like Uruguay."
Old rivalries were being revisited in a plethora of friendlies taking place across the continent.
In later games, England were meeting 2014 World Cup hosts Brazil at Wembley, France and Germany were squaring off in Paris and the Netherlands hosting Italy in Amsterdam.
Puyol was not the only player celebrating 100 international appearances, with Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa reaching his century in the 4-0 victory over South Korea and England defender Ashley Cole running out for the 100th time against Brazil.
In-form striker Mario Mandzukic put Croatia on their way to a comprehensive win over South Korea in London, setting Igor Stimac's side up nicely for next month's politically-charged 2014 World Cup qualifier against Balkan arch-rivals Serbia.
Mandzukic, top-scorer in the Bundesliga this season with 14 for Bayern Munich, netted the first at Fulham's Craven Cottage. Darijo Srna, Nikica Jelavic and Mladen Petric were also on target.
Serbia, who have made a poor start to World Cup qualifying - picking up four points from four games to trail unbeaten pacesetters Belgium and Croatia by six points - beat Cyprus 3-1 in Nicosia with Dusan Tadic scoring twice.
Turkey also have a tough job ahead of them to get back into contention for a place in the Brazil finals and a 2-0 home defeat by the Czech Republic was not the confidence-boost coach Abdullah Avci was seeking.
Turkey's domestic league has attracted Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder and Ivorian striker Didier Drogba this month but the national team continues to struggle, losing to first-half goals from Ladislav Krejci and David Lafata.