Mar 26, 2011

Euro 2012: France labour, Spain and Italy win

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David Villa scored twice to bring Spain from behind to beat the Czech Republic 2-1, and eclipsed Raul as Spain's all-time goalscorer in the process.

Spain were trailing to a 29th-minute wondergoal from Jaroslav Plasil but Villa fired home from the edge of the area in the 69th minute, moving clear of Raul's record of 44 goals and relieving the tension in Granada.

Less than five minutes later, he added the second from the penalty spot after Jan Rezek fouled Andres Iniesta in the area. The win sends Spain six points clear of the Czech Republic at the top of Group I with a 100% record.

The return of Patrice Evra and Franck Ribery failed to inspire France as, for the second time in their campaign, they laboured to a 2-0 win over Luxembourg.

Evra and Ribery were back in the team for the first time since their misdeeds at the World Cup contributed to their side's humiliating first-round exit.

But the result with the pair in the team was the same as the result without them as goals from Philippe Mexes and Yoann Gourcuff saw them to a 2-0 win, just as when the sides met in France in October.

Netherlands turned on the style as they cruised past Hungary 4-0 at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium in Budapest.

Tottenham playmaker Rafael van der Vaart gave the visitors an early lead and Ibrahim Afellay's goal shortly before half-time ensured the scoreline reflected Holland's dominance. Simple second-half goals for Dirk Kuyt and Robin van Persie ensured the Oranje moved six points clear at the top of Group E.

Northern Ireland took a heavy blow in Belgrade as they conceded twice in the second half to surrender a hard-earned lead against Group C rivals Serbia.

Only some brave last-ditch defending stopped them going behind but when Gareth McAuley rose to head home Chris Brunt's cross in the 40th minute, a famous victory looked on the cards.

But Serbia, playing in the near-deserted Crvena Zvezda Stadium as a result of crowd trouble against Italy, hit back through Marko Pantelic before Zoran Tosic drilled in the winner via a slight deflection.

Thiago Motta's second-half strike handed Italy a narrow 1-0 win over Slovenia in Ljubljana.

The Brazilian-born midfielder, who made his debut with the Azzurri in last month's friendly against Germany, struck in the 73rd minute to hand the Italians their first-ever win on Slovenian soil.

The result has lifted Italy six points clear of second-place Slovenia at the top of Group C after five games, bringing them significantly closer towards qualifying.

Belgium gave their hopes a huge boost with a much-needed and convincing 2-0 victory over Austria in Vienna.

Having collected only four points from their opening four games, Belgium needed a big performance against a team which started the night second in Group A. And they got what they were looking for as Axel Witsel scored early in each half and they restricted the hosts to a series of half-chances.



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