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Euro 2016: England and Spain off to winning starts

updated 5:54 PM EDT, Mon September 8, 2014
Wayne Rooney captained England in its 2-0 victory over Switzerland.
Wayne Rooney captained England in its 2-0 victory over Switzerland.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • England edges past Switzerland in European Championship qualifier
  • Spain thrashes Macedonia in opening game
  • Ukraine beaten at home by Slovakia

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(CNN) -- Could England be the team which comes from nowhere to win the European Championship finals in 2016?

No, probably not. But this 2-0 win over Switzerland should not be scoffed at, especially by those who would have considered England escaping unscathed with a giant bar of Toblerone as an achievement in itself.

Chocolate aside, this result will be far more palatable for those who have endured a difficult time following Roy Hodgson's side.

England has not had much to smile about in recent months but perhaps it will allow itself time to enjoy a rare moment of success.

The World Cup was an unmitigated disaster as England failed to qualify from the group stage for the first time since 1950.

Beaten by Italy and Uruguay, it returned home following a goalless draw with Costa Rica and faced a barrage of criticism.

As is always the case with England, a period of national introspection followed where every single facet of the game was questioned from the grassroots coaching to the number of English players being able to ply their trade in the Premier League.

For Hodgson, the man charged with transforming England's fortunes, this success will at least give him some breathing space.

Danny Welbeck, who recently signed for Arsenal after completing a move from Manchester United, scored both goals as England produced an encouraging performance.

Hodgson, who has been under pressure ever since the World Cup failure, even managed a smile -- no mean feat given the level of criticism he has endured in recent weeks.

"I thought the way we approached the game from the first minute was exactly what we wanted and we got our reward," Hodgson told ITV.

"We pressurized the ball well, but you need that first goal to get people to come out and attack you.

"From then I thought we looked dangerous and we had several chances to aggravate the scoreline before Danny Welbeck's second.

Angel di Maria has agreed a British record move to Manchester United after leaving Real Madrid. The 26-year-old midfielder spent four years in the Spanish capital, helping the club win the domestic title in 2012 and 2014 Champions League. Angel di Maria has agreed a British record move to Manchester United after leaving Real Madrid. The 26-year-old midfielder spent four years in the Spanish capital, helping the club win the domestic title in 2012 and 2014 Champions League.
Di Maria arrives at Manchester United
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Mario Balotelli is returning to English football with Liverpool after agreeing a move from AC Milan. Balotelli, who left Manchester City for Italy in January 2013, replaces Luis Suarez at Anfield. Mario Balotelli is returning to English football with Liverpool after agreeing a move from AC Milan. Balotelli, who left Manchester City for Italy in January 2013, replaces Luis Suarez at Anfield.
'Why always me?'
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Mario Balotelli: \'Why always me?\' Mario Balotelli: 'Why always me?'
In his own words: The man who fixed football
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"I think we can improve on how we see out the game, but you have to expect that some players will show a little naivety in that area."

Both goals came as a result of counter attacks with Welbeck finishing off Raheem Sterling's cross on 58 minutes after England had caught Switzerland short in defense.

The second owed much to Welbeck's pace and power as he held off his opponent before firing the ball into the corner.

Wayne Rooney, the new England captain, said the pace of England's front three was key to his side's success.

"We defended well as a team and took our chances, catching them on the break with the speed we had been hoping to show," Rooney told ITV.

"I think we knew the game against Norway was going to be difficult, but tonight was always going to be more important and we were focusing on that. We have worked on springing from defense to attack which you saw tonight. It was a happy performance from us."

After making the Swiss roll, England face San Marino and Estonia in its next round of qualifiers in October.

Spain success

Elsewhere, Spain began the defense of its European title with a 5-1 home victory over Macedonia in Valencia.

Sergio Ramos opened the scoring from the penalty spot before further goals from Paco Alcacer, Sergio Busquets, David Silva and Pedro sealed the win.

"This team has a lot of quality and excellent players and it was just a matter of time before we scored," Valencia's Alcacer told TVE.

"I am very pleased with the match, above all for my competitive debut here at home in Valencia, and the goal and victory."

In Kiev, Ukraine suffered a 1-0 home defeat by Slovakia in with Robert Mak scoring the only goal of the game for the visitors.

In Group G, Russia benefited from two own goals as it overcame Liechtenstein 4-0 in Khimki.

Read: Spain's World Cup hangover lingers

Read: Germany back to winning ways

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