Saturday’s late Euro 2016 qualifying roundup: Spain, Switzerland cruise to second place in respective groups
Spain and Switzerland, favorites to qualify for the 2016 EUFA European Championships from Groups C and E, respectively, both took massive steps toward doing so on Saturday.
Spain 3-0 Belarus
Spain, winners of Euro 2008 and 2012, were quick to dispatch fifth-place Belarus with goals in back-to-back minutes (18th and 19th) scored by Isco and Sergio Busquets. La Furia Roja, who now sit just three points behind leaders Slovakia,got a third goal from Pedro in the 55th minute, and recorded their second shutout in four group games.
Switzerland 4-0 Lithuania
Switzerland, however, took a much more difficult path to a blowout victory. 0-0 through 65 minutes, the 2014 World Cup Round of 16 qualifiers looked in danger of dropping points to fourth-place Lituania and finding themselves with just four points from four games, in fourth place themselves.
Then came a Giedrius Arlauskis own goal in the 66th minute to put the Swiss a goal ahead. Two minutes later, Fabian Schar doubled the lead before Xherdan Shaqiri got in on the action with a brace scored in the 80th and 90th minutes. Now Switzerland, instead, sit second in Group E with back-to-back, very winnable games on the horizon.
Montenegro 1-1 Sweden
Sweden missed a golden opportunity to put a stranglehold on second place in Group G with an away draw to Montenegro, and instead find themselves only a point clear of the Montenegrins and Russia, who are level with one another on five points.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic put the Swedes up early with a clever, close-range finish in the 9th minute, but Stevan Jovetic equalized and snatched a point with an 80th minute penalty kick.
Macedonia 0-2 Slovakia
Slovakia downed Macedonia, 2-0, and continued their 100 percent record in Group C, thanks to a pair of first-half goals from Juraj Kucka and Adam Nemec. The Slovakians face lowly Belarus and Luxembourg in their next two games and could lock up at least a Euro 2016 playoff with a pair of wins and helpful results elsewhere.