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June 24, 2017

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England, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Croatia have good win in last warmup games

England, host Portugal, Spain and Sweden all turned their final European Championship warmup games into morale boosters on Saturday, while the Dutch had whistles ringing in their ears after a second home defeat in barely a week.

With two goals in a 6-1 rout of Iceland, England forward Wayne Rooney showed why he might be remembered for more than just being the youngest player at the June 12-July 4 tournament.

Veteran Henrik Larsson made his return to the Swedish team a winning one, scoring the first goal in a 3-1 home win over Poland, and Spain downed tiny Andorra 4-0.

With a touch of genius, Portugal striker Pauleta plucked a 70-meter clearance out of the air and lobbed it over the flatfooted Lithuanian goalkeeper for the best goal of the day to lead his team to a 4-1 win.

In sharp contrast, the Dutch were shocked at home by non-qualifier Ireland, which made a mockery of Oranje's status of pre-tournament favorite. Ireland's Robbie Keane scored the lone goal in Amsterdam, one week after the Netherlands lost to Belgium 1-0 at home.

Afterward, the song "simply the best" tried to highlight the Dutch going away ceremony in midfield, but it was largely drowned out by vicious whistling and derisive laughs from the crowd at the Amsterdam ArenA.

In Copenhagen, Denmark coach Morten Olsen was left to apologize to the fans following a sullen 2-1 loss to fellow Euro 2004 qualifier Croatia.

After last Tuesday's disappointing 1-1 draw against Japan, England was anxious to get a rousing performance on Saturday, and 18-year-old Rooney highlighted a good first half with a sterling long-range strike that showed off both his sheer power and cocky confidence.

"Scoring for your country is always special but to get two goals a eek before the Euro 2004 finals is a great feeling," Rooney said.

It was his second in the only half he played Saturday and brought his total for England to five in a dozen games.

Even though Iceland is only 56th in the world rankings, England's overall performance was impressive enough to momentarily draw attention away from David Beckham's medical problems.

Beckham had a cyst removed from his back and the team's biggest star will be able to resume training once the squad arrives in its training base just outside Lisbon.

"He has no problem at all," Eriksson said. "I can guarantee that he will practice on Tuesday."

England opens its Group B campaign against defending champion France on June 13.

Croatia is also in England's group and Eriksson was served warning Saturday it could be another intimidating opponent when it won its third preparation game in a row.

Denmark wanted to leave its fans with happy memories but a disastrous first half decided otherwise.

Tomo Sokota and Ivica Olic scored early on to give Croatia a much needed boost ahead of its June 13 opener against Switzerland. What was especially encouraging for coach Otto Baric was that the result was achieved with three top players, including midfield star Milan Rapaic, sitting out the game to get some rest.

Denmark opens its Group C campaign against favorite Italy a day later and has plenty to worry about.

"I want to apologize to the audience," a humble Olsen told the crowd after the match.

The Dutch were humbled by Ireland, which eliminated the Netherlands from the World Cup two years ago.

Far from the glorious send-off the Dutch had hoped for, the home side looked dangerously out of form on the eve of its departure for Portugal, with mistakes on both offense and defense.

In first-half injury time, Keane swept unchallenged by slow defenders and beat Netherlands 'keeper Edwin van der Sar with a drive to the right corner.

In Setubal, Portugal gave a sharp performance in the opening half when Paris Saint-Germain striker Pauleta scored the beauty. But the team slumped in the second half when it made 10 substitutions.

"We've still got some work to do," Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari said. "We'll probably need to make some changes in midfield."

Spain made a sluggish start against minnow Andorra and had to wait until the 25th minute for Fernando Morientes to open the scoring.

Ruben Baraja extended Spain's lead before the break, and Juan Carlos Valeron and Cesar Martin ensured a comfortable win with second-half goals.

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