By CAITLIN MURRAY
Fans in the Netherlands had quite the scare Wednesday.
On the eve of their team flight to Brazil, the Dutch beat Wales in a World Cup warm-up, 2-0, but star captain Robin van Persie had to be taken off at halftime after appearing to struggle with a groin injury.
Manager Louis Van Gaal was quick to tamp down the worst fears, telling media the injury was not serious and that the removal was precautionary.
“We took him off as a precaution because this was not an important match,” Van Gaal told Dutch radio. “It was important rather to save him for the World Cup.”
Van Persie is expected to be ready before the Netherlands open their World Cup run against Spain next week, Dutch media has reported.
Here’s a look at the rest of the flurry of international matches on Wednesday:
ENGLAND DRAWS IN MESSY BATTLE WITH ECUADOR, OXLADE-CHAMBERLAIN INJURED
In a 2-2 draw between England and Ecuador, both sides can be thankful their shared red cards in a messy challenge came Wednesday and not next week in Brazil.
For England’s inexperienced 19-year-old winger Raheem Sterling, a reckless challenge was enough to earn a straight red, but seasoned veteran Antonio Valencia was also sent off for his reaction – grabbing Sterling by the neck.
It ended the match on a poor note and served as a stark reminder of what not to do in Brazil.
Worse, England youngster Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain left the game at the half amid fears of a possible ligament injury. He will reportedly have a scan on his knee Thursday.
But Wayne Rooney and Rickie Lambert each scored in the first half – good signs for the English as they will be counting on those two in Brazil.
Enner Valencia scored first and Michael Arroyo equalized for Ecuador in the second.
ITALY FORCED TO SETTLE WITH DRAW TO LUXEMBOURG
Italy settled for a 1-1 draw to Luxembourg in an embarrassing showing against a soccer lightweight.
The Italians started strong with Claudio Marchiso getting them on the board early on a setup by Mario Balotelli. But their experimental 4-1-4-1 formation couldn’t hold up, with defensive and offensive lapses abound.
The Italians missed chance after chance, which would haunt them in the 85th minute when Maxime Chanot headed a corner home with the help of poor man-marking.
“This test is absolutely not a failure, we tried to do things we had practiced in training,” Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told reporters. “But it’s clear we have to improve. But we had to try certain things as we have very few matches. We know that we weren’t brilliant, but we leave with the knowledge that we can have a great World Cup.”
It was Italy’s seventh match in a row without a win.
ARGENTINA COASTS PAST TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
There were no surprises for Argentina, who sailed to an easy 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago.
Though they could’ve stood to finish better, goals by Rodrigo Palacio, Javier Mascherano and Maxi Rodriguez were enough for the comfortable win.
Lionel Messi nearly scored, hitting the post with a free kick, but it was Mascherano who was there to knock it back for the goal.
URUGUAY POSTS SHUTOUT WIN OVER SLOVENIA
Uruguay extended their unbeaten streak on home soil for a fairly easy 2-0 victory over Slovenia.
Edinson Cavani scored his seventh goal in ten matches in the first half. Substitute Christian Stuani put the match out of reach late for the final result.
OTHER WEDNESDAY RESULTS
Algeria 2 – 1 Romania
Hungary 1 – 0 Albania
Jamaica 2 – 2 Egypt
Chile 2 – 0 Northern Ireland
El Salvador 1 – 2 Côte d’Ivoire