Irish blow to Paraguay preparations

Football World Cup friendlies: North Korea catch the eye in 2-2 draw with Greece; US drubbed

Irish blow to Paraguay preparations

Red brigade: North Korea’s players celebrate after holding Greece to a 2-2 draw in a friendly on Tuesday. AP

In other friendlies, North Korea held Greece to a 2-2 draw, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia played out a goalless draw and the United States lost 2-4 at home to the Czech Republic.
Ireland, whose qualifying campaign came to a controversial end last year when a blatant handball by Thierry Henry set France up for a play-off winning goal, rarely looked troubled after first-half goals from Kevin Doyle and Liam Lawrence.

Doyle, one of nine starters who featured in that cruel night in Paris last November, put the hosts ahead on seven minutes, the frontman nodding in from close range after Paraguay striker Roque Santa Cruz headed onto his own bar.

Paraguay, who led the long South American qualification campaign throughout 2008 before finishing in third place, controlled much of the half but created few openings despite striker Rodolfo Gamarra looking lively on just his third cap.

The Paraguayans, preparing for Group F matches against Slovakia, New Zealand and holders Italy, were punished again on 39 minutes when Doyle neatly chested a Stephen Kelly cross into the path of winger Lawrence to smash home.

After a shaky start to the second half, Paraguay got back on top of possession and pulled a goal back on 57 minutes when Argentine-born striker Lucas Barrios, who obtained Paraguayan nationality last month, scored on his debut.At Altach in Austria, North Korea forward Jong Tae-Se, dubbed the 'People's Wayne Rooney' by the Asian media, scored twice in a 2-2 draw with fellow World Cup finalists Greece. Greece twice took the lead but were pegged back by the impressive Japan-based frontman.
Kostas Katsouranis' second-minute strike from close range after defender Sotiris Kyrgiakos headed a Giorgos Karagounis free-kick across goal gave Greece the perfect start.

On 23 minutes, Jong equalised with a superb long-range effort that went in off the underside of the crossbar.Greece regained the lead in the second half through substitute Angelos Charisteas' volley from another Karagounis free-kick. But Jong showed his class with a clinical finish moments later, controlling a long ball, skipping past Nikos Spiropoulos and then firing powerfully past substitute goalkeeper Alexandros Tzorvas to level again.

Nigeria unimpressive
Also in Austria, at Wattens, Nigeria began their preparations with an error-strewn and uncoordinated 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia in a match they were fortunate not to lose in coach Lars Lagerback's debut.

The new coach, who has had his players together for less than a week, turned out a side of more probables than possibles in the alpine village of Wattens in front of a small crowd of some 3,000.

Veteran Nwankwo Kanu captained the side but was among six players changed in the second half as Lagerback, who was appointed to the post in February, ran his eye over players on the fringe of the final squad.At East Hartford, the United States suffered a shake-up with a 4-2 defeat to the Czech Republic. US coach Bob Bradley rested many of his likely starters but gave a run-out to key central defender Oguchi Onyewu, who has been sidelined since a knee operation in October and looked well short of match fitness.
The States took the lead in the 17th minute through Maurice Edu but goals from Tomas Sivok (44) and Jan Polak (58) put the Czechs in front.

Substitute Herculez Gomez brought the US on level terms but then the shaky American defence conceded twice with Martin Fenin (77) and then Tomas Necid (90+2) leading the Czechs to victory.

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