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Favorites record big victories in Cup qualifiers
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 14 - 10 - 2012

LONDON — Spain and hat trick hero Pedro turned on the style in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win in Belarus amid a television blackout while Germany had Irish viewers turning off in droves as it romped to a 6-1 away win Friday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic's 75th minute winner salvaged a 2-1 victory for Sweden, which was 1-0 down to the 158th-ranked Faroe Islands, while Italy also enjoyed a second-half surge to prevail 3-1 in Armenia. England labored to a 5-0 win over San Marino at Wembley while its former boss Fabio Capello was thrilled with new side Russia's 1-0 home win over Portugal which gave the Euro 2012 flops three wins from three to top Group F.
The Netherlands might have expected more than a 3-0 victory over tiny Andorra, in contrast to neighbor Belgium which won 3-0 in Serbia. The result left the Belgians joint top of the group with seven points from three games along with Croatia, which came from behind to win 2-1 at fellow former Yugoslavs Macedonia.
Vicente Del Bosque's side got straight down to business and was 2-0 up inside the first quarter of the match in Minsk, with Jordi Alba and Pedro on the scoresheet.
Pedro then grabbed two more after the break, outpacing the defense for his second and combining with Barcelona teammate Cesc Fabregas for his third as Spain made it two wins from two.
Germany rocketed onto a maximum nine points in Dublin with Marco Reus putting the Group C leader 2-0 up inside 40 minutes with two crisp strikes.
Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland was never in the game as it suffered a record-equalling home defeat as a Mesut Ozil penalty, trademark Miroslav Klose finish and two classy Toni Kroos goals completed the rout.
Group B leader Italy had a tougher time in Armenia but it escaped with an 11th minute Andrea Pirlo penalty.
Henrikh Mkhitaryan wiped the smiles off Italian faces when he skipped past Andrea Barzagli to fire home the equalizer and Cesare Prandelli's Euro 2012 runner-up needed headers after the break from Daniele De Rossi and Pablo Osvaldo to be safe.
Sweden was feeling far from safe after 57 minutes when a weak Jonas Olsson clearance was punished by Rogvi Baldvinsson as the tiny Faroes celebrated a famous goal on its new artificial pitch against its more illustrious Scandinavian neighbor.
Alexander Kacaniklic's 65th minute equalizer calmed Swedish fears before Ibrahimovic sealed the points in Group C to stay three points behind the Germans with a game in hand.
England returned to the Group H summit but was less than sparkling against San Marino.
England had to wait until the 35th minute for a goal which came from a Wayne Rooney penalty.
The striker added another in between Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck's well-taken double before Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain netted the fifth with his first international goal after 77 minutes.
Elsewhere, Switzerland stayed top of Group E after a 1-1 draw at home to Norway while Bosnia remained just ahead of the pack in Group G after a 0-0 draw in Greece.
Romania beat Turkey 1-0 away to extend its perfect start in Group D and stays level on points with 2010 runner-up the Netherlands as the race for the nine automatic World Cup berths as European group winners starts to hot up. — Reuters

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