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France humbled; Spain, England begin with a bang
By Stuart Condie
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 04 - 09 - 2010

While World Cup holder Spain was among the traditional powers to open qualifying for the 2012 European Championship with victories Friday, France was further humiliated by a 1-0 home defeat against lowly Belarus.
Sergei Kislyak scored in the 86th minute to hand France one of its most embarrassing defeats, following a disastrous World Cup campaign.
David Villa matched Spain's all-time scoring record with his 44th international goal to help the defending European champion beat Liechtenstein 4-0 and take an early lead in the five-team Group I.
The Netherlands beat San Marino 5-0 to win its first competitive match since losing the World Cup final to Spain in July, while Germany won 1-0 at Belgium, Italy beat Estonia 2-1 and England routed Bulgaria 4-0.
The France players needed a good performance at Stade de France to win over fans following the debacle at the World Cup, when they refused to train and were knocked out in the first round.
But the team was jeered from the field in coach Laurent Blanc's first home match.
Vyacheslav Hleb set up the crucial goal when he weaved to the right of the penalty area and pulled the ball back for Kislyak, who beat goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a powerful shot into the top right corner.
The shock result means that Bosnia-Herzegovina became the early Group D leader with a 3-0 win at Luxembourg. Romania and Albania drew 1-1 in the other match.
Portugal conceded in the 89th to draw 4-4 with visiting Cyprus in Group H, but Spain's first qualifier was much more straightforward.
Fernando Torres put Spain ahead before Villa matched Raul Gonzalez's record tally of 44 international goals in the 26th with a rising 20-meter shot that went straight over the goalkeeper's head.
Torres made it 3-0 early in the second half and substitute David Silva struck in the 62nd.
Villa, playing in his 66th international, almost scored again he hit the bar with a close-range shot in injury time. Raul needed 56 more games than Villa to score his 44 goals.
Spain is already two points clear of Scotland and Lithuania, who drew 0-0 in the other Group I match.
The Netherlands already seems to be in a strong position in Group E after Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored a hat trick between goals by Dirk Kuyt and recalled veteran Ruud van Nistelrooy.
Despite the dominant score, Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk was not happy about his team's sluggish start.
“We created too few chances in the first half,” he said.
Sweden midfielder Pontus Wernbloom scored two second-half goals for a 2-0 win over Hungary and Moldova beat Finland 2-0. Another veteran striker, Miroslav Klose, scored his 53rd international goal to give Germany a 1-0 win at Belgium.
Bastian Schweinsteiger robbed Belgian defender Daniel Van Buyten of the ball and fed Thomas Mueller, who set up Klose for an easy finish.
But Turkey leads Group A from Germany on goal difference after winning its first competitive game under coach Guus Hiddink 3-0.
Hiddink's old team, Russia, won 2-0 at Andorra in Group B, which also featured a 1-0 win for Ireland at Armenia and Slovakia's 1-0 win over Macedonia.
Italy rallied from a goal down to enjoy its first win of the year after Antonio Cassano scored one goal and set up another.
Estonia took the lead in the 31st but Cassano found the target with a header in the 60th and passed with his heel inside the box three minutes later for Leonardo Bonucci to give Italy its first win of the year.
Also in Group C, Serbia beat Faeroe Islands 3-0 and Northern Ireland won 1-0 at Slovenia.
Jermain Defoe scored a hat trick and Adam Johnson hit his first international goal to give England a morale-boosting win in Group G.
Montenegro's 1-0 win over Wales could help England in its attempt to win the group but England's first competitive match since its humiliating exit from the World Cup was marred somewhat by an injury to central defender Michael Dawson.
Former European champion Greece scored a late goal through Nikos Spyropoulos to salvage a 1


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