Spain stays perfect in Euro qualifying

Updated: March 25, 2011, 7:52 PM ET
Associated Press

LONDON -- Spain and the Netherlands maintained their perfect starts to 2012 European Championship qualifying with victories Friday.

France and Italy also won to open up huge leads in their groups.

Spain, the current world and European champion, rallied for a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic in Group I thanks to David Villa's two goals in the space of four second-half minutes in Granada.

The Dutch were also playing the closest challenger in their pool, but enjoyed a much more comfortable evening, routing Hungary 4-0 in Budapest for a fifth straight win in Group E. English Premier League stars Rafael Van der Vaart, Dirk Kuyt and Robin Van Persie were joined in the scoring by Barcelona winger Ibrahim Afellay.

Italy edged Slovenia 1-0 to go six points ahead in Group C, while fellow World Cup flop France eased to a 2-0 win at Luxembourg to move four points above Belarus in Group D.

Brazilian-born central midfielder Thiago Motta scored a 73rd-minute winner for Italy. Roma defender Philippe Mexes and Lyon midfielder Yoann Gourcuff were the scorers for France.

Elsewhere, Serbia rallied to beat Northern Ireland 2-1 and Belgium won 2-0 at Austria.

Despite having no fans to cheer the team on, Serbia won. Serbia was being punished by UEFA after a section of its fans rioted during a qualifier against Italy in Genoa in October.


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press