Spain and Switzerland secure spots in Euro 2016
MADRID (AP) Spain will defend its European Championship title next year, while Switzerland will return to the tournament for the first time since co-hosting it eight years earlier.
Spain secured its Euro 2016 spot by easily defeating Luxembourg 4-0 at home, while Switzerland trounced San Marino 7-0 to clinch its berth for the tournament in France.
Switzerland missed the 2012 European Championship after co-hosting the tournament with Austria in 2008.
Also Friday, already qualified England beat Estonia 2-0 to win for the ninth time in as many qualifying games.
Here’s a look at the Euro 2016 qualifiers on Friday:
Santi Cazorla and substitute Paco Alcacer scored two goals each to help Spain beat Luxembourg 4-0 and secure its spot in next year’s European Championship.
Cazorla scored in the 42nd and 85th minutes, while Alcacer netted in the 67th and 80th to give Spain 24 points in Group C, five more than Slovakia and Ukraine. Slovakia lost 1-0 at home to Belarus, while Ukraine defeated Macedonia 2-0.
”It’s great to finally advance, but we know it wasn’t easy,” Spain coach Vicente Del Bosque said. ”The loss to Slovakia (last year) made things harder for us.”
In the final round, Ukraine hosts Spain, which will be looking for a third consecutive European title in France next year, and Slovakia plays at Luxembourg.
Spain came into Friday’s home match with a depleted squad because of injuries and suspensions, and it only got worse after David Silva had to be substituted early on with an apparent ankle injury. Also in the first half, Alvaro Morata had to leave on a stretcher because of a right leg injury.
Switzerland will return to the European Championship for the first time since it co-hosted the tournament eight years earlier after thrashing San Marino 7-0 with seven different scorers.
Three goals came from penalties from Gokhan Inler, Johan Djourou and Breel Embolo, while Michael Lang, Admir Mehmedi, Pajtim Kasami and Eren Derdiyok also netted.
As the Swiss secured second place, leader England made it nine wins out of nine in qualifying, with Theo Walcott and Raheem Sterling scoring in a 2-0 win over Estonia.
England is the only team with a 100 percent record in qualifying for next year’s finals and should be with the top-seeded teams in the draw for the group stage.
”That’s important because it fluctuates with the FIFA rankings and I’m only hoping I’ve not been misled that we are now safe to be seeded,” England coach Roy Hodgson said.
With one qualifier remaining, Switzerland has an unassailable five-point advantage over Slovenia, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Lithuania. Slovenia remains in a good position to make the playoffs as one of the third-place finishers.
Slovenia has a three-point advantage over fourth-place Estonia and goes into the final qualifier at winless San Marino with a plus-nine goal difference.
Russia took a big step toward qualifying for Euro 2016 thanks to a 2-1 win at Moldova.
The victory strengthened its hold on second place with one round of games yet to be played in the group.
Russia took the lead through veteran defender Sergei Ignashevich, who blasted the ball into the net in the 58th minute after Artyom Dzyuba knocked on a free kick.
Dzyuba doubled Russia’s lead in the 78th with a tap-in, while Eugeniu Cebotaru rekindled Moldovan hopes with a header in the 85th.
Russia has a two-point lead over second-placed Sweden, which beat Liechtenstein 2-0.
Austria, which has already qualified as group winner, twice recovered from a goal down to beat Montenegro 3-2.
AP sports writers Rob Harris in London and James Ellingworth in Sochi, Russia, contributed to this report.
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