The latest international break seems to be that odd concoction of 'friendlies', mixed up with competitive European Championship qualifying games. Scotland and Northern Ireland prepared themselves for the challenges to come by playing out a reminder of the old British Home Championship at Hampden last night, their friendly ending in a 1-0 victory for the Scots. The home nation left it late, with Christophe Berra's headed winner coming in the 85th minute. Elsewhere, World Cup champions Germany drew 2-2 at home to Australia, while Denmark edged an entertaining tussle against USA 3-2.
Scotland were the better team for much of the game and Gordon Strachan will have been happy enough with their narrow victory over the Irish, maintaining the confidence factor he is seeking to instil in his squad. They had to be patient though before finally getting the reward of an 85th minute goal from Ipswich Town's Berra, as he met Matt Ritchie's corner to head firmly past the Irish keeper, Michael McGovern. It was perhaps hard on the Irish keeper, after making a number of fine interventions on the night.
Both sides will have gained some plus points ahead of the more serious business of their Euro qualifiers at the weekend, the Scots taking on Gibraltar on Sunday, while the Irish pit their wits against Finland. The Scots faced a determined defence and were eventually able to pierce it, which may be repeated when Gibraltar come to Scotland, so in that respect the friendly served a useful purpose in terms of how to break down a side with men behind the ball. An interesting sight was that of Manchester United's Jonny Evans playing for the Irish, able to gain match sharpness while serving out his domestic ban for his club for the spitting incident with Newcastle's Papiss Cisse.
There were three other international friendlies played last night, as the sides sought to develop their understanding as a team unit before the Euro matches. Georgia beat Malta as expected 2-0, but they too left it very late with goals from Jaba Kankava and Valeri Kazaishvili in the last six minutes. Denmark beat the USA 3-2, thanks to Nicklas Bendtner's injury-time winner to complete his hat-trick, with Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson scoring for Jurgen Klinsmann's team. #FootballA shock looked on the cards in Germany as the home side trailed the Aussies 2-1, but then Lukas Podolski rescued them with an 81st minute equaliser. Marco Reus' first-half opener for the hosts was negated by goals from Australia's James Troisi and Mile Jedinak, before the Podolski salvation came along.