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Misery for Belgium’s Martinez, Italy’s Ventura in new jobs

Belgium Soccer Spain

Belgium’s coach Roberto Martinez looks on during a friendly soccer match against Spain at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2016. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)


Roberto Martinez’s Belgium was booed off the pitch against Spain. Giampiero Ventura watched Italy’s error-prone defense gift goals to France.

It was a night to forget for two coaches on their national team debuts in Thursday’s friendlies.

And the future of Netherland manager Danny Blind looks bleaker after barely a year in the job after his team collapsed to Greece ahead of World Cup qualifying beginning.

But Julen Lopetegui enjoyed the perfect introduction to international soccer coaching with Spain - at Martinez’s expense - as the recently deposed European champion beat top-ranked Belgium.

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After being eliminated from Euro 2016 in the round of 16, Spain produced a reminder in Brussels of just how it conquered the continent to win the previous two European Championships.

David Silva scored both goals as Spain outclassed Belgium, highlighting the size of the task facing former Everton manager Martinez to mold his talent-packed squad into a team capable of living up to its potential.

Silva fired a low shot under goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois in the 34th minute and netted from the penalty spot after the break to take his international tally to 26 goals in 104 matches.

Belgium managed only one serious effort on goal, an 83rd-minute strike by Kevin de Bruyne that David de Gea tipped over the bar.

World Cup qualifying: Belgium plays away in Cyprus in Group H on Tuesday. Spain hosts Liechtenstein in Group G on Monday.

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Defender Giorgio Chiellini was to blame for Anthony Martial and Olivier Giroud scoring in the first half. On his Italy debut, 17-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma also failed to protect his near post to allow Layvin Kurzawa to find the net after the break.

Donnarumma replaced Gianluigi Buffon at the start the second half to become the youngest goalkeeper to ever play for the Azzurri.

Graziano Pelle scored Italy’s only goal, initially canceling out Martial’s first international goal.

FIFA used the match to test video assistance for referees for the first time in an international friendly, although the match officials didn’t receive the information from the off-line trials.

“We’ve seen football history here,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino told Italy’s Rai TV .

World Cup qualifying: Italy plays away against Israel in Group G on Monday. France is at Belarus in Group A on Tuesday.

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The Netherlands was condemned to a fifth straight home loss for the first time since 1933, highlighting the depths the team has sunk to since reaching the semifinals at the 2014 World Cup.

The Dutch failed to qualify for Euro 2016, with Blind taking charge toward the end of qualifying. Reaching the 2018 World Cup might prove as challenging based on this performance.

Georginio Wijnaldum put the Dutch in front, but the confidence ebbed out of Blind’s team and Konstantinos Mitroglou headed in Greece’s equalizer. Ioannis Gianniotas netted Greece’s winner in the second half.

“It’s unacceptable at this level to give away goals that easily,” veteran Netherlands midfielder Wesley Sneijder said.

World Cup qualifying: The Netherlands plays at Sweden in Group A on Tuesday. Greece is at Gibraltar in Group H on Tuesday.

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Nani seized the limelight in Cristiano Ronaldo’s absence with two goals in Portugal’s first match since beating France in the European Championship final in July for its first major football title.

The friendly in Porto was also Gibraltar’s first game since gaining membership of FIFA in May ahead of World Cup qualifying.

The tiny British overseas territory managed to restrict the sixth-ranked Portuguese to scoring just once in the first half, with Nani netting his first.

The winger was on target again 10 minutes into the second half with a header but it took Portugal until the 73rd to start to build a commanding score. Within six minutes, Joao Cancelo, Bernardo Silva, and Pepe all scored.

World Cup qualifying: Portugal is at Switzerland in Group B on Tuesday. Gibraltar hosts Greece in Group H on Tuesday.


Andrew Dampf in Rome and Mike Corder in the Hague, Netherlands contributed to this report.