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Belgium, France and Portugal become the first teams to qualify for the 2024 European Championship

Fri, Oct 13, 2023
Soccer News (AP)

Belgium, France and Portugal become the first teams to qualify for the 2024 European Championship

Kylian Mbappe and Cristiano Ronaldo both scored twice to help France and Portugal secure a spot at next year's European Championship with a perfect record in qualifying, with Belgium also clinching a berth in Germany on Friday.

The three European powerhouses all needed a win to qualify for the tournament and their star strikers made sure they got them.

Mbappe's two goals - including a long-range strike for the second - helped secure a 2-1 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam for a perfect sixth win in Group B.

Mbappe opened the scoring in just the seventh minute when he beat Lutsharel Geertruida to a cross from the right by Jonathan Clauss to volley past Brighton goalkeeper Bert Verbruggen, who was making his debut for the Netherlands.

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It was Mbappe's 41st international goal, drawing him level with France great Michel Platini.

Mbappe doubled the lead in the 53rd minute when he exchanged passes with Adrien Rabiot on the edge of the Netherlands' penalty area before curling a shot over Verbruggen.

Feyenoord midfielder Quilindschy Hartman, in his first full international appearance, made it 2-1 with 10 minutes to go. It was the first goal France has conceded in the campaign.

Greece moved up to the second place with 12 points after Giakoumakis and Giorgos Masouras scored a goal a piece to beat Ireland 2-0 in Dublin.

The Netherlands remains on nine in third with a game in hand.

The top two teams in each group directly qualify.

RONALDO'S RECORD AT 125

Ronaldo's double improved his record tally of international goals to 125 in 202 appearances and led Portugal to a 3-2 win over Slovakia.

Ronaldo converted from the penalty spot in the 29th minute, sending Slovakia goalkeeper Martin Dubravka the wrong way to double the lead to 2-0.

Forward Goncalo Ramos had given the hosts the lead with a header 11 minutes earlier.

After David Hancko pulled one back for Slovakia in the second half, Ronaldo restored a two-goal advantage off a low cross from Bruno Fernandes that found him at the far post.

He jumped high in his trademark celebration in front of the roaring fans in Porto after his seventh goal in six qualifying games.

Stanislav Lobotka scored the second for Slovakia in the 80th.

With three games to go, Portugal has 100% record after seven straight wins with a 27-2 goal difference, the best-ever performance in a European qualifying campaign. Slovakia was the first team to score against Portugal.

Slovakia remains on 13 points in second with Luxembourg trailing by two in third after holding Iceland to a 1-1 draw in Reykjavik.

Bosnia won 2-0 at pointless Lichtenstein and is fourth on nine with Iceland another two back.

LUKAKU ON TARGET

Romelu Lukaku scored again and Dodi Lukebakio added two more for Belgium, which had to hang on with 10 men to beat Austria 3-2 in Vienna and secure advancement from Group F.

Lukaku beat goalkeeper Alexander Schlager to make it 3-0 after collecting a precise pass from Jeremy Doku in the 58th, just three minutes after Lukebakio scored his second.

Lukaku tops the scoring table in qualifying with nine goals from six games to take his international tally to 79.

Lukebakio broke down the right before netting inside the far post from a tight angel to put the Red Devils ahead in the 12th. It was the first international goal for the Sevilla forward.

Konrad Laimer pulled one back for Austria in the 72nd and Belgium then went down to 10 men six minutes later when midfielder Amadou Onana was sent off for a second booking. Marcel Sabitzer netted Austria's second from the penalty spot in the 84th but the hosts couldn't find an equalizer.

Belgium has 16 points from six games, with Austria three points behind after its first loss in qualifying.

Sweden, which was idle Friday, is in third on six points from five games and still has a small chance of overtaking Austria.

In the group's other game, Azerbaijan won 2-0 at Estonia to register its first victory and climb to four points. Estonia has one point.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

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Article Copyright © 2023 The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved.
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