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EURO 2020 qualifying: Spain rout Faroe Islands, Italy hold off Finland

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The paths of Spain and France to victory were contrasting, however, both teams continued their winning ways in Sunday’s EURO 2020 qualifying.

[ MORE: EURO qualifying wrap ]


Spain 4-0 Faroe Islands

Who knows if it was planned, but Spain put on a lively celebration for Sergio Ramos, who equalled Iker Casillas’ international caps on Sunday night in Gijon, in their 4-0 drubbing of Faroe Islands.

Even then, the scoreline isn’t a clear reflection of Spain’s dominance over a vastly inferior visiting side, who registered less than 30 percent possession and took two shots throughout 90 minutes.

La Roja, comfortable as ever, had time to experiment and put together well-orchestrated attacks.

Rodrigo started the scoring frenzy in the 13th minute with a tap-in, before adding a second in the second half after his left-footed strike wad deflected into the back of the net.

Substituted in the 61st minute for Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Paco Alcacer added his own brace over the span of three minutes to seal the night for Spain, who stay unbeaten after six qualifying matches and atop of Group F.

Finland 1-2 Italy

Italy’s victory in Finland was controversial, to the say very the least.

Norwhich City’s man of the hour, Teemu Pukki, scored a penalty in the 72nd minute, only to be nulled by Chelsea’s Jorginho, who converted one of his own, which turned out to be the Italian’s match-winning goal.

The call that led to the penalty, however, was worthy of video review.

Finland’s Sauli Väisänen, with his arm attached to his torso as he turned away, made contact with Nicolò Barella’s shot. The official, who was on the opposite of the box, instantly deemed it a penalty and showed a yellow to the defender, despite the heavy petitioning from the Finish players.

With the victory, Italy, who like Spain have yet to lose, remains ahead of second-place Finland in Group H by six points.

VAR is not used in the qualifying process, but will be implemented in the 2020 European Championship, according to UEFA.

Elsewhere

Switzerland 4-0 Gibraltar
Georgia 0-0 Denmark
Sweden 1-1 Norway
Greece 1-1 Liechtenstein

Ramos equals Casillas’ Spain appearances, closes in on men’s world record

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If it wasn’t clear already: Sergio Ramos will go down in history.

On Sunday, with a start against the Faroe Islands in Spain’s EURO 2020 qualifying match, the defender equalled Iker Casillas’ record of 167 international caps for La Roja. 

The 33-year-old defender is nine appearances short of tying Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon’s European record of 176 and 18 out of breaking the men’s world record of 184 set by Egypt’s Ahmed Hassan.

The Real Madrid captain began his international career in 2005 in a friendly against China, and can become Spain’s most-capped player if he plays against either Sweden or Norway next month.

Throughout his 14-year spell with the national, Spain’s captain has won the 2010 World Cup, EURO 2008 and EURO 2012.

Euro 2020 qualifiers: Italy and Spain stay perfect, Eriksen shines for Denmark

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Christian Eriksen‘s future at Tottenham Hotspur may be in serious doubt, but his future with Denmark has never been more secure. The 27-year-old again proved vital for his country as he assisted the opener and scored a brace from the spot in a 6-0 storming of Gibraltar.

His assist came just six minutes into the match on a cross from deep down the right flank, sending it in for a finish off the head of Robert Skov. Eriksen then scored his first penalty past the half-hour mark to put Denmark 2-0 up on the road, and again stepped up to the spot for a second in the 50th minute. Thomas Delaney bagged Denmark’s fourth, Christian Gytkjaer added the fifth, and the Lech Poznan striker picked up his brace with 12 minutes to go.

Like Eriksen, Teemu Pukki remained white hot as Finland secured a massive 1-0 win at home over Greece, pushing them to second in Group J on 12 points. The goal, Pukki’s fourth of the qualifiers, came from the penalty spot in the 52nd minute after Dimitrios Kourbelis fouled Rangers midfielder Glen Kamara. The tally marks Pukki’s sixth goal in his last five matches for club and country, already on top of the Premier League goal chart with five.

Italy, meanwhile, moved to five wins through five matches atop Group J with a 3-1 win over Armenia. Andrea Belotti bagged a brace while Roma midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini added the third in Yerevan. The victory came in comeback fashion as FC Sochi striker Alexander Karapetian opened the scoring 11 minutes in for the hosts on an impressive counter-attack, but he was sent off just before halftime for a second yellow card and Italy preserved its perfect record.

Sergio Ramos scored from the spot to help give Spain a slim 2-1 road victory over Romania. Spain put eight shots on frame in the first half to Romania’s one, but could only record the one penalty goal. A second would eventually be coming, and it did just two minutes after the break as Paco Alcacer finished off a wonderful team goal that featured an assist from Jordi Alba on a wonderful far-post run that caught the Romanian defense out of sorts and played Alcacer onside. On-loan Brighton striker Florin Andone pulled Romania one back with a half-hour to go but they couldn’t get past a bunkered-in Spain reduced to 10 men for the final 11 minutes after Real Sociedad defender Diego Llorente was sent off.

Manchester United defender Victor Lindelof was one of three goalscorers as Sweden hammered the Faroe Islands 4-0 on the road. All four goals came in the first half as the visitors coasted to build a three-point gap for a qualifying position behind Spain in Group F.

Newcastle defender Fabian Schar seemed to have given Switzerland a deserved 1-0 victory on the road at the Republic of Ireland, but a late 85th minute equalizer saw the scoreline level. The Magpies center-back marauded forward through the middle and contributed the finish to a wonderful bit of one-touch attacking with 15 minutes to go. Switzerland deserved to go in front despite the lack of Xherdan Shaqiri who made himself unavailable for selection as he fights for a place in the Liverpool squad. The home side would peg Switzerland back, however, as David McGoldrick delivered a header five minutes from time to share the spoils, moments after Glenn Whelan struck the bar.

Bosnia & Herzegovina poured it on late to top Lichtenstein 5-0. The hosts held 68% possession and popped off 28 shots to Lichtenstein’s eight, but could only muster an 11th minute effort from Amer Gojak for the majority of the match. It was 1-0 until the final 10 minutes when they poured four more on, with Edin Dzeko, Haris Duljevic, and Edin Visca all finding the back of the net plus a second for Gojak. The three points were vital as they pushed Bosnia & Herzegovina up to third in Group J, with a five point gap between them and second-placed Finland.

Norway topped Malta 2-0 at home as Bournemouth’s Josh King scored from the spot. 21-year-old Genk midfielder opened the scoring past the half-hour mark, and King delivered his penalty in first-half stoppage time as the home side cruised in Oslo. They jumped into third in Group F, but still sit two points back of Sweden.

Israel drew 1-1 with Macedonia at home, a disappointing result that sees their second-place spot in Group G suddenly in peril, with third-placed Austria and fourth-placed Slovenia now within striking distance as they both take the field tomorrow.

High-profile match-fixing trial underway in Spain

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MADRID (AP) Spain’s most high-profile match-fixing soccer trial got underway Tuesday with more than 30 players appearing before a judge.

[ MORE: FIFA unveils logo for 2022 World Cup in Qatar ]

Players, coaches and team officials were in court in Valencia to defend themselves in the case involving a top-tier Spanish league game between Levante and Zaragoza at the end of the 2010-11 season.

More than 40 people have been accused, including former Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, who managed Zaragoza at the time.

They potentially face two years in prison and a six-year soccer ban if found guilty.

Among the players accused are Ander Herrera, now with Paris Saint-Germain; former Leicester midfielder Vicente Iborra; former Atletico Madrid captain Gabi Fernandez; River Plate midfielder Leonardo Ponzio; Serbian defender Ivan Obradovic; Lazio forward Felipe Caicedo; and Uruguay striker Cristhian Stuani.

Some of the players have asked not to be in court for the entire duration of the trial, which is expected to last until the end of September.

Lawyers for Zaragoza and some players called for a mistrial on Tuesday because current Spanish league president Javier Tebas was a lawyer to one of the Zaragoza players at the time.

They claimed Tebas broke lawyer-client privilege because it was the league that later made the accusation that led to the trial.

[ EURO 2020 qualifying preview: Germany-Netherlands showdown on deck ]

Prosecutors cited evidence that Zaragoza paid around $1 million to Levante’s players to lose a match to Zaragoza.

Zaragoza’s 2-1 victory in the final round of the season allowed the team to avoid relegation. Levante was already safe.

Prosecutors said the money allegedly given to Levante players was divided among the squad. Prosecutors contend that players in both teams were aware of the match-fixing.

Prosecutors said they found evidence the money was transferred to Levante players after analyzing tax reports and banking transactions at the time. Ahead of the trial, all the defendants denied any wrongdoing.

A lower court had shelved the case but it was reopened last year after an appeal by prosecutors in Valencia, where Levante is based and where the match was played.

Even if found guilty, it’s unlikely that those being accused would face actual prison time because sentences of two years or less for first-time offenders are often suspended in Spain.

Zaragoza returned to the second division in 2013-14. Levante is currently in Spain’s top tier.

Former Spain coach Luis Enrique announces death of daughter

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MADRID (AP) Former Spain and Barcelona coach Luis Enrique says his 9-year-old daughter has died after a five-month battle against a type of bone cancer.

Luis Enrique posted a message on Twitter on Thursday saying “our daughter Xana has passed away this afternoon.” He also thanked supporters for “all of the love received during these months and we appreciate the discretion and understanding.”

[READ: Which PL team got best UCL draw]

The 49-year-old coach left his job with Spain’s national team in June because of his daughter’s illness. He initially stepped away temporarily and delegated his duties to then assistant coach Robert Moreno, but eventually resigned to focus solely on his family.

Luis Enrique ended his message by saying Xana “will be the star that guides our family.”