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Spain opens WCup qualifying with late win

Associated Press Modified: September 11, 2012 at 10:49 pm •  Published: September 11, 2012
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Spain opened the defense of its World Cup title with a 1-0 win at Georgia on Roberto Soldado's 86th-minute goal Tuesday night, while England stumbled to a 1-1 tie at home against Ukraine.

Spain, the world and European champion, has won 23 consecutive qualifiers since 2007. Soldado scored off a cross from Cesc Fabregas, who entered six minutes earlier.

"It was a hard-fought win against a rival that gave us the ball but pulled back into its area," Soldado said, who was given a rare start up front ahead of Fernando Torres and the fit-again David Villa. "It was bewildering."

Italy, Germany and Portugal all failed to impress despite victories on the second day of European qualifying for the 2014 tournament in Brazil.

The United States (2-1-1) moved back into a tie for its group lead in the North and Central American and Caribbean semifinals, winning 1-0 at home against Jamaica as Herculez Gomez curled in a free kick in the 55th minute.

Mexico (4-0) became the first nation to advance to next year's six-team CONCACAF finals, winning 1-0 at home against Costa Rica on a 61st-minute goal by Javier Hernandez.

South American leader Argentina (4-1-2) rallied for a 1-1 tie at Peru, with Gonzalo Higuain scoring in the 36th minute, 15 minutes after Carlos Zambrano had put the hosts ahead. Colombia (4-2-1) won 3-1 at Chile, Uruguay came from behind to tie Ecuador 1-1 on a 61st-minute goal by Edison Cavani, and Venezuela won 2-0 at Paraguay on a pair of goals by Salomon Rondon.

At Wembley, Frank Lampard converted a penalty kick in the 87th minute after Yevhen Khacheridi was called for a hand ball. Yevhen Konoplianka scored for Ukraine in the 39th minute, crisply curling the ball from 25 yards into the top corner of Joe Hart's goal.

Already missing Wayne Rooney, John Terry and Ashley Cole because of injuries, England finished a man short after Steven Gerrard was ejected in the 88th for his second yellow card.

"These games are not easy and in the end getting a point is a good result considering we were 1-0 down with 10 minutes to go," Lampard said.

France topped Group I following a 3-1 win at home against Belarus, with Etienne Capoue, Christophe Jallet and Franck Ribery scoring for Les Bleus.

"It was important for us to win tonight," Ribery said, thinking ahead to France's next qualifier, at Spain on Oct. 16.

European Championship runner-up Italy limped to an unimpressive 2-0 win over Malta, getting goals from Mattia Destro in the fifth minute and Federico Peluso in second-half injury time. Italy (1-0-1) leads Group B on goal difference over Bulgaria, while Malta dropped to 0-2.

"Yes, we suffered in this game, and didn't play a very nice game, but these games are useful to look at these players and see what they are like and have an idea of what stage they will be at in two years' time," Azzurri coach Cesare Prandelli said. "Overall, I'm satisfied."

Germany (2-0), which leads Group C, won 2-1 at Austria on Marco Reus' goal in the 44th minute and Mesut Oezil's penalty kick in the 52nd, beating its neighbor for the eighth straight time. Zlatko Junuzovic reduced Austria's deficit in the 57th minute, converting a cross by Marko Arnautovic.

"They had some great chances," Germany coach Joachim Loew said, "but they all resulted from our mistakes."

After stopping a four-game losing streak Friday, the Netherlands continued its revival by beating Hungary 4-1 on two goals from Jeremain Lens and one each from Bruno Martens and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar. The Dutch (2-0) trial Romania on goal difference in Group D.

Russia (2-0) defeated Israel 4-0 and leads Portugal on goal difference in Group F. Portugal needed goals in the final 27 minutes by Silvestre Varela, Helder Postiga and Bruno Alves to beat Azerbaijan 3-0.

Cristiano Ronaldo set up Portugal's first two goals.

In Asia, Japan (2-0-1) took a significant stride toward a berth by beating Iraq 1-0, but Australia stumbled with a 2-1 loss at Jordan. Lebanon defeated Iran 1-0 and South Korea (2-0) managed a 2-2 draw at Uzbekistan to extend its lead in Group A.