WC sides struggle in prep matches

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src=' ' class='caption'> Paraguay and Ecuador had to settle for draws on Wednesday to begin their final run to Germany, while Costa Rica fell 2-0 to a Catalonia select side.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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New York:

World Cup preparations started slow for Paraguay and Ecuador. They were even slower for Costa Rica. Paraguay and Ecuador allowed second-half goals and had to settle for draws on Wednesday to begin their final run to Germany, while Costa Rica allowed a goal in each half and fell 2-0 to a Catalonia select side. Ecuador held a lead for only three minutes, disappointing an overwhelming partisan crowd of 52,425 in New York in a 1-1 draw with Colombia. Playing with four of its regulars on the bench and in what appeared to be an experimental 4-3-3 formation, Ecuador took the lead in the 52nd minute when Segundo Castillo ran onto an attempted clearance attempt by Haydee Palacio and drove a shot from the edge of the area. Colombia responded three minutes later when Elkin Soto received a ball at the top of the Ecuadorean area and launched a left-footer that beat keeper Christian Mora inside the right post. "I believe that we are not biting enough up front," Ecuador manager Luis Fernando said. "I think we need to work on that. We need a lot of work on that aspect." Frode Johnsen scored his second goal of the game in the 61st minute and Norway rallied to tie Paraguay 2-2 in Oslo. Johnsen also scored in the 22nd minute, heading the ball past Paraguay goalkeeper Justo Villar. Paraguay captain Carlos Gamarra equalised with another header three minutes into the second half, and Nelson Haedo Valdez put Paraguay ahead in the 54th after a long pass from Edgar Barreto. In Terrassa, Spain, Francisco "Piti" Medina, who plays for second-division Spanish team Ciudad de Murcia, gave the Catalonia select team the lead in the eighth minute and Roger Garcia added a penalty in the 65th minute. Like several other Spanish regions including the Basque Country, players native to Catalonia occasionally gather to compete in friendlies against international teams although don't compete in official competitions. Costa Rica, which was without injured defender Gilberto Martinez, made little impact in the match before a crowd of 8,155 at Olympic Stadium. Several other friendlies were played across Europe involving teams that did not qualify for the World Cup. (AP)

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