Spain, Italy qualify for Euro 2012

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Spain, Italy qualify for Euro 2012

LONDON - Spain and Italy sealed their places at Euro 2012 with two qualifying games to spare on Tuesday while England moved closer to next year’s finals after scraping past a resilient and well-organised Wales team at Wembley, sadly overshadowed by the death of a Wales fan.

David Villa and Alvaro Negredo scored twice as defending champion Spain thrashed Liechtenstein 6-0 to secure top spot in Group I, and substitute Giampaolo Pazzini’s 85th-minute strike earned the Italians a narrow win in Florence that clinched them first place in Group C.

The 2006 and 2010 world champions join already-qualified Germany and the two co-hosts in the finals.

The Netherlands maintained its perfect record in Group E with a 2-0 victory in Finland but still need a point to guarantee first place, like England.

Elsewhere, France’s Euro 2012 qualification hopes were dealt a setback by drawing 0-0 with Romania, with second-place Bosnia-Herzegovina now only a point behind in Group D after a Zvezdan Misimovic’s 87th-minute winner in the 1-0 victory over Belarus.

France hosts Bosnia-Herzegovina in the final round of group fixtures on Oct. 11 and, along with Portugal, is the European heavyweight most in danger of missing out.

The Portuguese, who weren’t in action on Tuesday, are level on 13 points in Group H with Denmark and Norway after the Danes’ 2-0 win over their Nordic rivals in Copenhagen.

Barcelona midfielder Xavi Hernandez celebrated winning his 103rd cap - a Spanish record for an outfield player - by scoring on the stroke of half time to put Spain 3-0 ahead in a routine victory in Logrono, the team’s eighth in a row in qualifying.

Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos also found the net for the defending European champions.

“Now we have time to think about the European Championship, prepare for the games we have left to play,’’ Villa said. “It was important to qualify quickly.’’

By keeping a clean sheet against Slovenia, Italy has only conceded one goal in eight qualifiers - the lowest in all nine qualifying groups.

The Azzurri edged past the Faroe Islands 1-0 on Friday and one goal was enough for Cesare Prandelli’s team four days on, with Pazzini receiving a pass from Claudio Marchisio and firing home from the angle shot from just over six yards.

Serbia moved into second place by beating the Faroes 3-1 and needs three points from its last two games to seal second place.

The best second-place finisher qualifies automatically for Euro 2012, with the other eight advancing to a series of two-legged playoffs.

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