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World Cup qualifier:Spain, Germany, England find scoring form; Portugal falter

London/MONTEVIDEO/PARIS, Oct 13 (Agencies/ AFP)
Published on 13 Oct. 2012 10:57 PM IST
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World and European champion Spain romped to a 24th straight qualifying win on Friday, although no one in the country was able to see it.
Pedro Rodriguez scored a hat trick as the world’s best team routed host Belarus 4-0 in one of a group of big wins for Europe’s leading nations in 2014 World Cup qualifying.

Spain’s wasn’t the most convincing win of the third round of regional qualifiers, with Germany handing Ireland its worst loss since 1971, 6-1 at Dublin. Wayne Rooney celebrated being handed the temporary England captaincy by scoring twice in a routine 5-0 win over San Marino, taking his goal total in international matches to 31, fifth on the country’s all-time list.

But Italy was again unconvincing in beating Armenia 3-1, and the Netherlands managed only a comfortable 3-0 win over Andorra, which is 201st in the rankings. However, Euro 2012 semi-finalist Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, couldn’t make the most of its dominance against Russia and lost 1-0 in a match between the top two teams in Group F. The Portuguese are three points behind Russia, which is unbeaten under new coach Fabio Capello and has three straight wins in qualifying.

The third straight qualifying victory for Germany was launched by Marco Reus’ goals in the 32nd and 40th minutes before Mesut Oezil’s penalty kick and goals by Miroslav Klose and Toni Kroos (two) turned it into a rout.

Spain warmed up for its Group I match against France, which surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Japan in a friendly on Friday, by stretching its winning run in qualifying that dates back to September 2007. Pedro set up Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba for the opener before scoring the remaining three goals himself in Minsk, putting Spain ahead of France on goal difference. Both countries have six points and only one team qualifies automatically from each group. Spain, seeking an unprecedented fourth straight major international tournament trophy, is enjoying a golden era in its soccer history, but that still didn’t persuade broadcasters to pay for coverage.

Rooney was playing for England for the first time since Euro 2012 and was given the captain’s role with Steven Gerrard suspended and Frank Lampard sidelined with injury. Rooney marked the occasion by joining Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck in scoring twice at Wembley Stadium.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also scored for the hosts, who moved to the top of Group H. It wasn’t such a good night for Oxlade-Chamberlain’s Arsenal teammate, Theo Walcott, who will spend the night in a hospital after colliding with goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini early in the game. Russia’s winner against Portugal came with its only shot on goal in the first half, Alexander Kerzhakov scoring in the sixth minute.

Ronaldo, who has scored six times in his last three Spanish league games for Real Madrid, barely had a sniff in Moscow.

Messi keeps Argentina on course for Brazil
 Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi scored twice as Argentina defeated Uruguay 3-0 on Friday to remain comfortably on course for the 2014 World Cup finals in Brazil.
The victory kept the 1978 and 1986 world champions on top of the nine-nation South American group while continental champions Uruguay remain in the fourth and final automatic qualifying place.

Messi grabbed his 11th and 12th goals of the campaign in Mendoza, but the Argentina skipper had to wait until midway through the second half to unlock a tight Uruguay defence. He opened the scoring in the 66th minute when he slid in from a cross by Angel Di Maria with his second goal -- and his team’s third -- coming eight minutes from time.

In between, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero hit the target, again from good approach work from the tireless Di Maria. Argentina thought they had a fourth goal in the dying minutes but substitute Hernan Barcos’s effort, off a one-two with Messi, was ruled out for offside.  The win leaves Argentina with 17 points from eight matches, one ahead of Colombia and Ecuador who both also won on Friday.

Colombia, coached by veteran Argentine Jose Pekerman, moved to 16 points with a 2-0 home win over Paraguay in Barranquilla with both goals coming from prolific Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao. He opened the scoring after 52 minutes and closed out a memorable performance with a second, two minutes from time.

France stunned by Japan
France will go into next week’s crucial World Cup qualifier against Spain on the back of a defeat after substitute Shinji Kagawa’s 88th-minute goal gave Japan a 1-0 win in Friday’s friendly at Stade de France.

The hosts had largely controlled the game but they were caught cold with two minutes to play Manchester United forward Kagawa volleyed home Yuto Nagatomo’s cross following a rapid counter-attack. It was Japan’s first win over France in six attempts and a first defeat for Didier Deschamps in his fourth game since taking over from Laurent Blanc at the France helm.

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