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Football | Spain

Pedro brace sees Spain past Uruguay



Pedro extended his recent purple patch for Spain when he struck twice to help the world and European champions to a 3-1 win over Uruguay in a friendly in Qatar on Wednesday.

In a record-equalling 68th match as coach for Vicente del Bosque, nine Barcelona players featured at Doha's Khalifa International Stadium and Spain dominated possession against the South American champions.

They took the lead in the 16th minute thanks to a dreadful blunder by Fernando Muslera.

Cesc Fabregas let fly from distance straight at the Uruguay goalkeeper but he could only palm the swerving shot behind him and into the empty net before pounding the turf with his fist in self-reproach.

Uruguay were looking to catch Spain on the break via pacy forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani but it was midfielder Cristian Rodriguez who equalised in the 32nd minute when he side-footed past Victor Valdes from inside the area.

Pedro restored Spain's lead six minutes after the break with a low angled shot and turned in a fine Fabregas cross in the 74th minute for his ninth goal in his last six internationals.

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The 25-year-old Barca forward has struggled for his club this season, scoring only six times in 30 appearances in all competitions but is highly valued for his work rate and movement off the ball.

"The most important thing was to win and keep going step by step and I am very happy with the victory," Pedro said in an interview with Spanish television broadcaster Cuatro.

"They (friendlies) are difficult, tough games with the mentality you have to bring, the desire and the excitement," he added.

"But I think this team is doing nice and important things and once again we managed a fantastic result against a great team like Uruguay."

MIDFIELD STALWARTS

Spain were missing midfield stalwarts Xavi and Xabi Alonso through injury and Andres Iniesta and Santi Cazorla were initially handed the task of controlling play with Fabregas roving up front between Pedro and Juan Mata.

Carles Puyol captained the side on his 100th appearance in the absence of goalkeeper Iker Casillas, who is nursing a broken hand, and Chelsea defender Cesar Azpilicueta made his international debut at right back.

Del Bosque, whose 68 games in charge equal the record set by Ladislao Kubala between 1969 and 1980, brought on David Villa for Mata and Gerard Pique for Puyol at the break and later handed debuts to Malaga playmaker Isco and Atletico Madrid's defensive midfielder Mario Suarez.

"They are players who will improve our squad and who have adapted normally to the group without any problems," Del Bosque told a news conference.

"They did what they had to do," added the former Real Madrid coach. "They were faithful to the characteristics that prompted us to call them up."

Del Bosque also praised Pedro.

"He is a dynamic player who is clear in his mind about what he has to do and has the speed necessary in today's football," he said.

It was the ninth match between Spain and Uruguay, who will meet again at the Confederations Cup in Brazil in June. The Iberian nation have now won four and drawn five.

Their next game is a World Cup qualifier at home to Finland on March 22 and they take on France, with whom they share the lead in Group I, in Paris four days later.

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