Pedro shines as Spain routs Belarus
Pedro Rodriguez scored three goals and set up another to give Spain a 4-0 victory at Belarus on Friday, as the world champions won their 24th straight qualifying match ahead of their critical clash with France.
Left back Jordi Alba got Spain rolling 12 minutes in from a pass by Pedro, who then doubled the visitors' lead at Dinamo stadium in the 21st.
The in-form Barcelona forward added two more goals in the 69th and 72nd to seal the comfortable win.
''(Pedro) is playing very well for his club,'' said Spain coach Vicente del Bosque. ''Pedro is quick, dynamic, and with the aggressiveness in attack necessary to break with the mold of our short passing style.''
Spain now awaits France on Tuesday in a match that could be key to determining which side finishes top of the group and with automatic qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Spain and France both have six points. Georgia is next with four. Finland has one, and Belarus has zero.
''France is an extraordinary team,'' said Del Bosque. ''They have forwards who can play the ball long, and they have added some fresh and physical powerful players. It will be a complicated game.''
Cesc Fabregas was tapped to lead the attack as he did in the final of this summer's European championships, while Fernando Torres never left Spain's star-studded bench.
With Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol unavailable with injuries, Spain coach Vicente del Bosque moved midfielder Sergio Busquets back to pair up with Sergio Ramos in the center of his defense. The pair had a tranquil night against the 87th-ranked Belarus.
As expected, Spain dominated from the start, coming close twice before Alba opened the scoring.
Alba finished off a great team move started by Xavi Hernandez. The Barcelona midfielder passed to Pedro, who flipped on a back-heeled pass for club teammate Alba to round goalkeeper Sergei Veremko and fire home.
Pedro got his turn to make it 2-0 nine minutes later when he received David Silva's through ball before chipping the ball over Veremko.
The Belarus keeper saved defender Egor Filipenko from scoring an own goal early in the second half.
But Spain continued its overwhelming domination, and Pedro doubled the winning margin with two goals in a three-minute span by twice more lifting the ball over Veremko.
Striker David Villa came on late and was close to adding a fifth goal for Spain with a shot that came off the post.
The last time Spain failed to win a qualifying match was in September 2007 when it drew 1-1 in Iceland.
Spain is seeking to win an unprecedented fourth straight major international tournament after repeating as European champions last summer.
Friday's game was not televised in Spain 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 Spain visited Malta.