Spain advances to Euro 2012 finals
Alvaro Negredo scored twice to put Spain into Euro 2012 as the defending champion beat Liechtenstein 6-0 in qualifying on Tuesday.
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Spain secured Group I with two games to spare to join Germany and Italy in next year's tournament in Poland and the Ukraine, where it is looking to become the first European nation to defend the title after winning the World Cup.
David Villa also scored twice while Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Ramos added the others as Spain built an insurmountable eight-point lead after a sixth straight group win to lead the Czech Republic with 18 points. Third-place Scotland has eight points after Tuesday's 1-0 win over Lithuania, which has five points to lead last-place Liechtenstein by one point.
''Now we have time to think about the European Championship, prepare for the games we have left to play,'' Villa said. ''It was important to qualify quickly.''
Spain ended 44 barren years at major tournaments with its 1-0 victory over Germany at the Euro 2008 final in Vienna, thanks to a goal from Fernando Torres. But the Chelsea striker was left to watch from the stands as Negredo made a strong case for going to next year's tournament by taking his goal tally to five from seven games.
''The team's behavior was very good tonight, especially as these types of games are not always easy,'' Spain coach Vicente del Bosque said before commenting on Torres' absence. ''This is one of the problems with having a squad of 24 players. Sometimes you have to give an opportunity to a younger player.''
Xavi delivered an immaculate pass into the area for Negredo in the 33rd minute and the Spain striker coolly controlled the ball before shooting past goalkeeper Peter Jehle for the opener at the Las Gaunas stadium, where the hosts dominated possession and play but were stymied by its opponent in the early stages.
Only four minutes later, Negredo capped an impressive combination started by Andres Iniesta, with Villa coolly back-tapping onto the path of Negredo to slice a left-footed shot inside the far post from inside the area.
Franz Burgmeiger's handball set up Xavi's 44th-minute strike from the edge of the area as Jehle was left flat-footed by the curling shot over the wall. Xavi's 103rd cap saw him move ahead of Raul Gonzalez into third all-time in appearances but most for an outfield player.
Spain continued to dazzle with its quick passing and darting runs as Negredo flicked a cross onto the path of Ramos to guide low into the net in the 53rd minute.
Juanma Mata then raced down the flank and along the goal line before passing into the middle of the area where Villa awaited to fire home on the hour mark. Villa added a second goal in the 79th after volleying Xabi Alonso's cross into the roof of the net from close range.
Spain's defense was improved with Sergio Busquets partnering Raul Albiol in the center with Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol out to injury, but it was also shaky early on as David Hasler nearly cut alone into the area before Marco Ritzberger shot high in the 12th.
Spain 'keeper Iker Casillas denied Mario Frick alone inside the area in the 65th as the visitors' remained scoreless against Spain in six defeats, outscored 23-0.
Thiago Alcantara also made his competitive debut as a second-half substitute while Fernando Llorente replaced Negredo in the 62nd to a standing ovation from over 18,000 fans.
Spain's 12th straight competitive win left it two shy of matching the Netherlands' record of 14 straight. Spain's 22nd straight win on Spanish spoil marked its 20th straight victory in European Championship and World Cup qualifying victory.
Spain: Iker Casillas, Raul Albiol, Sergio Ramos (Thiago Alcantara, 55), Sergio Busquets, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Xavi Hernandez (Cesc Fabregas, 46), Andres Iniesta, Juanma Mata, David Villa, Alvaro Negredo (Fernando Llorente, 62).
Liechtenstein: Peter Jehle, Michael Stocklasa, Martin Rechsteiner, Martin Stocklasa, Marco Ritzberger, Martin Buechel (Wolfgang Kieber, 81), Sandro Wieser (Nicolas Hasler, 72), Mario Frick, Franz Burgmeiger, Thomas Beck, David Hasler.