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Sep 3, 2010

Belarus beat France, England cruise

England opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 win over Bulgaria, but Laurent Blanc's first competitive game as France manager ended in a shock 1-0 defeat to Belarus and Portugal were held by Cyprus in an eight-goal thriller. Meanwhile, Spain cruised to a 4-0 win in Liechtenstein and Italy came from behind to beat Estonia.

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Jermain Defoe gave the surgeon's knife a swerve and instead carved up Bulgaria with his first England hat-trick to bring a smile back to Fabio Capello's face.

Defoe put off a groin operation that threatened to rule him out of England's opening Euro 2012 opener and gained perfect reward in a deserved win that eased some of the pressure that has been building around Capello. It took the striker's tally to 15 goals in 44 games. More importantly it moves England straight to the top of Group G. Adam Johnson also opened his international account.

Andreas Avraam was Cyprus' hero as they deprived Portugal of victory in a staggering opening game of their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in Guimaraes that ended 4-4.

Both teams led twice as the game freewheeled from end to end, with first-half goals from Efstathios Aloneftis and Michael Constantinou cancelled out by Portugal's Hugo Almeida and Raul Meireles. The home team led through Danny and Manuel Fernandes in the second period, but Yiannis Okkas and Avraam drew Cyprus level.

Laurent Blanc's first competitive match as France coach ended in a shock 1-0 defeat to Belarus which deals an early blow to their Euro 2012 qualifying bid. Sergey Kisliak scored the only goal four minutes from time to punish France, who failed to capitalise after dominating possession.

World champions Spain began the defence of their European Championships title with a thumping 4-0 win over outclassed Liechtenstein in Vaduz.

Fernando Torres struck twice while David Villa and substitute David Silva were also on the scoresheet as the world's top-ranked side, who this summer added the World Cup to the European crown they won two years ago in Austria and Switzerland, kicked off their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign in impressive style.

Italy had to come from a goal down to ensure a winning start for new coach Cesare Prandelli in his first competitive outing - a 2-1 triumph over Estonia. The home side went ahead through Sergei Zenjov after 29 minutes, leaving the Azzurri with work to do in Group C, but strikes from Antonio Cassano (59) and Leonardo Bonucci (62) gave Italy their first victory in 2010.

Miroslav Klose's goal was enough to give Germany a winning start to their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign. Klose struck six minutes into the second half as Germany edged out Belgium.

A hat-trick from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, a Dirk Kuyt penalty and a last-minute goal from Ruud van Nistelrooy helped the Netherlands to thrash San Marino 5-0. Van Nistelrooy's goal took him within six of Patrick Kluivert's record of 40 goals for Holland.

Striker Pavel Pogrebnyak scored twice for Russia as they opened their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 win over Andorra. Pogrebnyak latched onto a clever pass from Andrei Arshavin to make it 1-0 after 14 minutes and then scored a 65th-minute penalty following a foul on playmaker Alan Dzagoev.

Also in Group B, Keith Fahey came off the bench to launch Republic of Ireland's qualifying campaign with a hard-fought 1-0 victory in Armenia. The Birmingham midfielder struck his first senior international goal after 76 minutes to edge the Irish past Vardan Minasyan's men at the sweltering Yerevan Republican Stadium.

Northern Ireland got off to a stunning start in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign by defeating World Cup finalists Slovenia in Maribor. Manchester United midfielder Corry Evans was the unlikely matchwinner, stepping off the bench to score in the 70th minute.

A late, late goal was enough for Slovakia to defeat Macedonia 1-0 to start their campaign with a useful home win in Group B. Macedona saw Vance Sikov sent off after 86 minutes, leaving it to Filip Holosko to score the winner in the dying seconds.

Turkey made a confident start in Group A when defeating Kazakhstan 3-0 in Almaty, with Hamit Altintop scoring a stunning volley from a corner. Arda Turan opened the scoring after 24 minutes when converting from close range and Altintop doubled the lead for Guus Hiddink's side with a remarkable effort. Nihat Kahveci made sure of the three points after 75 minutes when rounding goalkeeper Andrei Sidelnikov.

Serbia, eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage, opened their campaign with a 3-0 victory away at Faroe Islands. Danko Lazovic opened the scoring after 13 minutes and Inter midfielder Dejan Stankovic added a second just five minutes later. Birmingham's summer signing Nikola Zigic rounded off the scoring in the dying seconds when scoring a third.

Norway scored two second half goals in a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Iceland. Heidar Helguson neatly flicked the ball in from short range in the 38th minute, but after several missed opportunities at the start of the second half, Norway equalised in the 59th minute when towering defender Brede Hangeland out-jumped Iceland's goalkeeper to head the ball into the net. Sixteen minutes later Mohammed Abdellaoue's low shot from 15 metres sealed the victory for Norway who face Group H favourites Portugal in Oslo next week.

Scotland failed to capitalise on their territorial advantage in their Euro 2012 opener in Lithuania as Craig Levein's competitive debut as manager ended goalless. The Scots looked solid and comfortable in possession but they failed to find the breakthrough despite some decent opportunities.

Mirko Vucinic enhanced his growing reputation by firing Wales to a 1-0 defeat in their opening Euro 2012 qualifier in Montenegro. The Roma striker, linked with both Manchester clubs earlier this year, struck after 30 minutes to hand the hosts a deserved Group G victory against a ragged Welsh side in Podgorica.

Bosnia-Herzegovina made a fast start when scoring three times in the opening 15 minutes against Luxembourg, but could not add to that early burst when winning 3-0. Senijad Ibricic scored after six minutes and Lyon playmaker Miralem Pjanic added a second after 12 minutes. Wolfsburg striker Edin Dezko, a target for Juventus and Manchester City over the summer, added a third soon after.

Romania conceded a late goal when being held to a 1-1 draw by Albania in their opening game in Group D. Bogdan Stancu put the home side in front after 80 minutes but Gjergji Muzaka struck with just two minutes remaining to give Albania a point.

Slaven Bilic's Croatia defeated Latvia 3-0 on their travels to move top of Group F ahead of Israel. Mladen Petric (42), Ivica Olic (51) and Darijo Srna (82) scored the goals for Croatia as they began in convincing fashion.

Greece's Fernando Santos experienced a frustrating competitive debut as coach after his team were held to a 1-1 draw by Georgia in their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign Group F opener at the Georgios Karaiskakis stadium in Athens.

Two goals from AZ Alkmaar midfielder Pontus Wernbloom saw Sweden secure a 2-0 home win over Hungary on Friday night. Wernbloom struck after 52 and 73 minuntes at Nya Ullevi Stadion as Sweden drew level with Moldova.

Moldova benefitted from a red card shown to Sami Hyypia when beating Finland 2-0 at home. After the Bayer Leverkusen defender was dismissed, Alexandr Suvorov (69) and Anatolie Doros (74) sealed the win.

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