Spain, Germany, England find scoring form
LONDON (AP) — 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
The blackout came after the producer, Sport Five, failed to reach a deal with any Spanish television channel. This was the first time a Spain match was not broadcast at home since 1983, when the team visited Malta.
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