LOGRONO, Spain (AP) Santi Cazorla and Paco Alcacer scored two goals each to help Spain beat Luxembourg 4-0 on Friday and secure a spot for the holders 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.
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.
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The top two teams from the nine groups qualify automatically. The best third-placed team also advances, while the other eight meet in a playoff.
”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.”
Spain dominated from the beginning and created several scoring opportunities throughout Friday’s match in the northeastern city of Logrono. Iker Casillas’ first save happened more than halfway through the second half.
Cazorla scored just before halftime after Pedro Rodriguez’s shot was parried by Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert. The ball came right back to the Arsenal midfielder’s feet near the penalty spot for an easy shot.
Alcacer, who came off the bench in the first half to replace the injured Alvaro Morata, added Spain’s second from the edge of the area after receiving a perfect through ball from Cesc Fabregas.
Alcacer scored again from close range after Jordi Alba’s pass from the left side, though replays showed the ball appeared to have crossed the line before Alba cut it back to Alcacer.
Cazorla’s second goal came with a low right-foot shot from outside the area.
Spain played with a depleted squad because of injuries and suspensions. Diego Costa was serving a one-match suspension for yellow cards, while Andres Iniesta, Sergio Ramos and Jorge ”Koke” Resurreccion were among the players nursing injuries.
To make things worse, David Silva had to be substituted only 10 minutes into the match with an apparent ankle injury, and Morata had to leave on a stretcher in the 33rd because of what looked like a right leg problem.
”The injuries kept us from playing with more freedom,” Del Bosque said. ”We had to pace ourselves.”
Ukraine earned the important win at Macedonia thanks to a 59th-minute penalty kick converted by Yevhen Seleznyov and an 87th-minute goal scored by Artem Kravets.
Slovakia missed a chance to move closer to securing second place in the group after the home loss to already eliminated Belarus, which got a 34th-minute winner from Stanislav Dragun.