France’s recovery from a humiliating World Cup finally began with a first win in European Championship qualifying on Tuesday night, while Germany and the Netherlands earned their second straight victories.
The French had begun with a surprising loss in Group D to Belarus on Friday, but Karim Benzema and Florent Malouda led them to a 2-0 victory at Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Italy and England also put miserable World Cup campaigns behind them by making it two wins out of two on the path to Euro 2012.
Following Sunday tabloid stories alleging he cheated on his pregnant wife last year with a prostitute, Wayne Rooney ended his yearlong goal drought for England in a 3-1 victory over Switzerland.
Italy cruised to a 5-0 victory over the Faeroe Islands, Miroslav Klose’s two goals helped Germany beat Azerbaijan 6-1, and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar scored twice for the Netherlands in a 2-1 victory over Finland.
Spain was beaten for the first time since winning the World Cup, allowing its most goals in a decade it a 4-1 exhibition loss at Argentina.
Spain trailed 3-0 down by halftime after goals by Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Carlos Tevez.
Sergio Aguero added Argentina’s fourth in second-half injury time after Fernando Llorente scored for Spain. Interim coach Sergio Batista won his second game since replacing Diego Maradona.
Having lost its previous four games, France had little margin for error in Bosnia. But it took until the 72nd minute for Benzema, who had recovered from a sore ankle, to put the visitors ahead with a left-footed shot after turning a defender.
Malouda doubled the lead six minutes later to give Laurent Blanc his first win since taking over from coach Raymond Domenech after the first-round exit in South Africa.
“This match summarized all the good things I saw during our preparations but that we failed to put in place against Belarus,” Blanc said. “It could be the start of something good.”
France is third in Group D behind Albania and Belarus, which both have four points. Hamdi Salihi’s goal led Albania to a 1-0 win over Luxembourg, while Belarus was held 0-0 by Romania.
Italy looked a shadow of the side that struggled to beat Estonia 2-1 on Friday.
At his home ground, Fiorentina’s Alberto Gilardino headed Italy ahead after 11 minutes against the Faeroe Islands after 11 minutes.
Daniele De Rossi and Antonio Cassano added further goals before halftime, while substitute Fabio Quagliarella scored from close range in the 81st and Pirlo completed the rout in the 90th.
Italy has a two-point lead in Group C over Serbia, which was held to a 1-1 draw by Slovenia.
New Jersey-born Giuseppi Rossi at forward started for Italy, while Neven Subotic, a defender from Salt Lake City, started for Serbia in a 1-1 tie against Slovenia.
Former Real Salt Lake forward Yura Movsisyan scored his first international goal, helping Armenia gain a 2-2 tie at Macedonia. A 23-year-old who holds a U.S green card, Movsisyan potentially was eligible to play for the U.S. national team but made his debut for Armenia last month.
Playing his third international match, he opened the scoring after cutting through Macedonia’s defense in the 40th minute.
Mario Gjurovski tied the score a minute later. Edgar Manucharyan put Armenia ahead in second-half stoppage time, but Ilco Naumovski retied it moments later.
The buildup to England’s match had been overshadowed by tabloid allegations against Rooney.
But the Manchester United forward shrugged off his personal crisis to score his first England goal since last September, slotting home in the 10th minute after meeting Glen Johnson’s cross unmarked.
Adam Johnson added another in the 69th, four minutes after Swiss right back Stephan Lichtsteiner was ejected for fouling James Milner.
Xherdan Shaqiri scored for Switzerland, but Darren Bent sealed England’s win with his first international goal.
England tops Group G on goal difference ahead of Montenegro, which beat Bulgaria 1-0 thanks to Elsad Zverotic’s long-range shot.
Unlike their European rivals, the Portuguese are still not over their World Cup woes. With coach Carlos Queiroz suspended for six months for insulting anti-doping officials, the team lost 1-0 to Norway, having only managed a 4-4 draw with Cyprus last week.
Norway tops Group H, while Denmark moved up to second by beating Iceland 1-0 in its first qualifier on Thomas Kahlenberg’s injury-time goal.
Germany’s 6-1 victory over Azerbaijan keeps it ahead of Turkey in Group A on goal difference. Turkey beat Belgium 3-2 after defender Vincent Kompany was ejected.
Olof Mellberg’s 34th-minute sending off made no difference to Sweden, which was already leading 3-0 and went on to rout San Marino 6-0 for the Group E lead.
Ireland moved into the Group B by beating Andorra 3-1. Slovakia behind Ireland on goal difference after stunning Russia 1-0 to earn its second straight qualifying win.
In Group I, Stephen McManus headed in a dramatic winner seven minutes into second-half stoppage time as Scotland came from behind to beat Liechtenstein 2-1. Scotland has four points and is even with Lithuania, which won 1-0 in the Czech Republic.
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