By CAITLIN MURRAY
The Guss Hiddink era at the helm of the Netherlands is off to a rocky start. As promised, Hiddink fielded the Dutch in a traditional 4-3-3 system against Italy on Thursday — and he had very little to show for it.
Within 10 minutes, Italy punished the 2014 World Cup’s third place team, scoring twice for a 2-0 lead that would hold to the end. Italy was knocked out of the group stage at this summer’s tournament, but looked reinvigorated under Antonio Conte in his managerial debut against a disorganized Dutch side.
In front of a home crowd at San Nicola Stadium, Borussia Dortmund’s Ciro Immobile scored his first international goal just three minutes into the match, calmly rounding goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen for the open shot. Daniele De Rossi added another on a penalty after a Bruno Martins Indi red card.
The match is a positive lead-in to Italy’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, which starts Tuesday against Norway. The Dutch open qualifying against the Czech Republic the same day.
Here is a rundown of international friendly results from Thursday:
FRANCE EASES BY DISJOINTED SPANISH SIDE
It was a good night in Paris for New Chelsea signing Loic Remy. As a second-half substitute, Remy was the difference Thursday for the French, nabbing the game-winner in a 1-0 win over Spain.
Fresh off his transfer from QPR, Remy scored 17 minutes after taking the field. He was on the receiving end of a nice flick from Moussa Sissoko and finished with a clean blast.
Spain lacked cohesion and was outplayed, landing exactly zero shots on target all day. With a humiliating 2014 World Cup behind them and Xavi, Xabi Alonso and David Villa all calling it quits from the national team since then, Spain’s Vicente del Bosque looked very much like a manager still figuring things out.
Spain opens Euro 2016 qualifying Monday against Macedonia. France has already qualified as host.
BELGIUM HANDS AUSTRALIA FIFTH STRAIGHT LOSS
Belgium outclassed Australia in a friendly Thursday, 2-0, with the Belgians looking as good as they did in the early stages of this summer’s World Cup.
The Belgian hosts needed only 18 minutes to take the lead as they pushed hard for an early goal. Winger Kevin De Bruyne was denied by the post, but the rebound found the feet of Dries Mertens, who fired a shot out of goalkeeper Matthew Ryan’s reach. Axel Witsel put the match away in the 77th minute, knocking a half-volley into the top-right corner.
Tim Cahill nearly equalized midway through the first half, but a splendid save by goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois denied him. For the Socceroos, it ended as their fifth defeat in a row.
Belgium had been slated to start Euro 2016 qualifiers in Israel next week, but the game has been postponed until March because of civil unrest and war with Gaza there. Australia will face Saudi Arabia in a friendly Monday.
Bosnia-Herzegovina 3 – 0 Liechtenstein
Iraq 0 – 2 Peru
Slovakia 1 – 0 Malta
Sweden 2 – 0 Estonia
Croatia 2 – 0 Cyprus
What did you think of these results? Think Hiddink will be able to figure things out for Euro 2016? Think Spain’s result should be of concern for Del Bosque? Think Belgium can keep performing?
Share your thoughts below.