Spain's win a sight to see, though not many did
By Steve Douglas, AP
October 14, 2012, 12:03 am TWN
LONDON--World and European champions 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.
Yet, celebrations were muted in the debt-ridden country after no broadcaster paid to televise the national team's match for the first time in 29 years.
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 semifinalist 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.
Also, Belgium enhanced its burgeoning reputation as a growing force in Europe with a 3-0 win in Serbia, which lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time in more than 10 years.
Sweden and the Czech Republic needed second-half rallies to avoid draws against weak competition, beating Faeroe Islands 2-1 and Malta 3-1, respectively.
The victory for the Swedes left them second in Group C, three points behind Germany ahead of their meeting in Berlin on Tuesday.