The Republic of Ireland ended a year which started with such optimism on a low note as a youthful side which featured Ciaran Clark, James McCarthy, James McClean and Robbie Brady from the start was beaten 1-0 by Greece in a friendly match at the Aviva Stadium.
Giovanni Trapattoni's team went into 2012 looking forward to their first appearance in a major tournament in 18 years but after the disappointment of Euro 2012 they slumped again last night, Jose Holebas's goal against the run of play in the 29th minute following a mistake by John O'Shea giving Greece victory.
Yet Trapattoni, who feared for his job after the 6-1 defeat to Germany last month, was not too downhearted. "The results gives us great disappointment, but the performance gives us possibilities," he said."It gave us confirmation of what we were looking for. [Seamus] Coleman, McCarthy, [Shane] Long and also McClean, they confirmed against a great team their quality and their personality, and that was important."
France pulled off a shock 2-1 win against Italy, Bafetimbi Gomis tapping in Patrice Evra's cross in the 67th minute to complete an unlikely comeback for Didier Deschamps' side.
With Manchester City's Mario Balotelli starting for Italy, the home team had the better of the first half and took a deserved lead when Milan striker Stephan El Shaarawy slipped the ball past Hugo Loris in the France goal in the 35th minute. However, Mathieu Valbuena's superb curling effort two minutes later made it 1-1 and Gomis came off the bench to put the visitors ahead before Italy wasted a number of excellent late chances.
Germany had the better of their game against old rivals the Netherlands at the Amsterdam Arena but could not make the vital breakthrough. Mario Götze was denied by Everton defender John Heitinga midway through the first half while Marco Reus shot just wide. Netherlands' only decent chance came in the second half when Daryl Janmaat's effort was blocked by goalkeeper Manuel Neuer as the game finished 0-0.
Lionel Messi failed to add to his 76 goals this year as an Argentina team containing the Barcelona striker, Manchester City's Sergio Aguero, Angel di Maria and Newcastle centre-half Fabricio Coloccini could only draw 0-0 with Saudi Arabia in Riyadh. Indeed it could have been worse for Argentina, as the hosts had the ball in the net in the 28th minute but were unlucky to see a marginal offside decision go against them.
Russia's winning start under new coach Fabio Capello was ended as they were held to a 2-2 home draw by the United States.
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