Spain, Germany, England find scoring form
LONDON (AP) -World and European champion Spain romped to a 24th straight qualifying win on Friday - but no one in the country was able to see it.
Pedro Rodriguez scored a hat trick as the world's best team thrashed Belarus 4-0 away in one of a host of big wins for Europe's leading nations in World Cup qualifying.
Yet, celebrations will have been muted in the debt-ridden country after no broadcaster paid to televise the national team's match - for the first time in 29 years.
Spain's wasn't the most convincing win of the third round of regional qualifiers, with Germany handing Ireland its heaviest loss since 1971 in a 6-1 rout in Dublin.
Wayne Rooney celebrated being handed the temporary England captaincy by scoring twice in a routine 5-0 win over San Marino, taking his goal tally in internationals to 31 - fifth on the country's all-time list.
But Italy was again unconvincing in beating Armenia 3-1 and the Netherlands will be disappointed not to have scored more in a comfortable 3-0 win over Andorra, which is 201st in the rankings.
However, Euro 2012 semifinalist Portugal, led by Cristiano Ronaldo, couldn't make the most of its dominance against Russia and lost 1-0 in a match between the top two teams in Group F.
The Portuguese are three points behind Russia, which is unbeaten under new coach Fabio Capello and has three straight wins in qualifying.
Also, Belgium enhanced its burgeoning reputation as a growing force in European football with a 3-0 win in Serbia, which lost a home World Cup qualifier for the first time in more than 10 years.
Sweden and Czech Republic needed second-half revivals to avoid embarrassing draws against minnows, beating Faeroe Islands 2-1 and Malta 3-1, respectively.
The victory for the Swedes left them second in Group C, three points behind Germany ahead of their meeting in Berlin on Tuesday when the hosts will start as heavy favorites following an emphatic win over Ireland.
The third straight qualifying victory was launched by Marco Reus' goals in the 32nd and 40th minutes before Mesut Oezil's penalty and further goals by Miroslav Klose and Toni Kroos (two) turned it into a rout.
Klose's strike was his 65th for Germany, leaving him three behind record-holder Gerd Mueller on the all-time list.
Spain warmed up for its critical Group I match against France, which surprisingly lost 1-0 at home to Japan in a friendly on Friday, by stretching its winning run in qualifying that dates back to September 2007.
Pedro set up Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba up for the opener before scoring the remaining three goals himself in Minsk, with Spain now ahead of France on goal difference. Both countries have six points and only one team qualifies automatically from each group.
Spain, which is seeking to win an unprecedented fourth straight major international tournament, is enjoying a golden spell in its football history but that still didn't persuade broadcasters to pay for coverage.
The blackout came after the producer, Sport Five, failed to reach a deal with any Spanish television channel. This was the first time a Spain match was not broadcast at home since 1983, when the team visited Malta.
Rooney was playing for England for the first time since Euro 2012 and was given the armband with Steven Gerrard missing through suspension and vice captain Frank Lampard sidelined with injury. Rooney marked the occasion by joining Manchester United teammate Danny Welbeck in scoring a brace at Wembley Stadium.
"To be in England's top five goalscorers, I'm extremely proud,'' Rooney said. "But I'm only 26 and I hope I can score a lot more.''
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain also scored for the hosts, who moved to the top of Group H above Montenegro and Poland.
It wasn't such a good night for Oxlade-Chamberlain's Arsenal teammate, Theo Walcott, who will spend the night in hospital after colliding with goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini early in the game.
Russia's winner against Portugal came with its only shot on goal in the first half, Alexander Kerzhakov scoring in the sixth minute, and the team held on to take charge of the group.
Ronaldo, who has scored six times in his last three Spanish league games for Real Madrid, barely had a sniff in Moscow.
"Maybe we weren't as calm as we usually are,'' said Portugal coach Paulo Bento, whose team is the only leading European nation not to be top of its group at this stage.