Serbia had to come from behind to secure a 2-2 draw against Bulgaria at the Dubocica Stadium stadium in Leskovac yesterday which booked their qualification for next year’s European Championships in Germany.
The Serbs finish second in Group G behind Hungary who snuffed out any hopes Montenegro had of progressing by beating them 3-1 in Budapest. Centre-back Milos Veljkovic put Serbia ahead in the 17th minute before substitute Georgi Rusev levelled for Bulgaria in the 59th.
Ten minutes later Kiril Despodov put the visitors ahead but Srdjan Babic equalised eight minutes from time to ensure Serbia would become the 17th team to qualify for Euro 2024. Montenegro needed Serbia to lose to have any hope of taking their place in Germany but also needed to win against the Hungarians who have eased impressively through qualifying.
Slobodan Rubezic put Montenegro ahead after 36 minutes but Hungary hit back in the second half with two goals in three minutes from Dominik Szoboszlai before Zsolt Nagy rounded off the win in added time.
France smash records in 14-0 win, Dutch, Swiss and Romania qualify
Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick in France’s record-breaking 14-0 thrashing of 10-man Gibraltar as the Netherlands, Switzerland and Romania booked their places at Euro 2024 on Saturday. Les Bleus set a new record margin of victory in European qualifying and a national record in Nice.
Ethan Santos’ own goal and Marcus Thuram had already opened the floodgates before 17-year-old Warren Zaire-Emery scored. That was Zaire-Emery’s last contribution as the PSG midfielder was forced off with an ankle injury but a red card for Santos after just 18 minutes allowed the World Cup finalists to run amok.
Mbappe’s penalty made it 4-0 and Jonathan Clauss, Kingsley Coman and Youssouf Fofana all scored before half-time. Adrien Rabiot, Coman again and Ousmane Dembele kept the score ticking over before Mbappe struck twice to seal his hat-trick in style.
The France captain lobbed Dayle Coleing from just inside the Gibraltar half to register his 300th career goal aged just 24. Olivier Giroud then came off the bench to grab the final two goals and ensure the history books were re-written. But the scoreline will raise fresh questions over the need for such clashes between giants and minnows in a congested fixture calendar.
Just one goal was enough to ensure the Dutch joined France in qualifying from Group B with a 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland. Wout Weghorst’s powerful drive separated the sides in Amsterdam in what is likely to be Irish boss Stephen Kenny’s final competitive game in charge.
Romania reached just a second major tournament since 2008 by ending Israel’s chances of automatic qualification with a 2-1 win. Despite being forced to play what should have been a home fixture in Hungary due to the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Israel went in front after just two minutes through Eran Zahavi.
But Romania hit back quickly to level through George Puscas and secured their place in Germany thanks to Ianis Hagi, son of Gheorghe Hagi who inspired the Romanians famous run to the 1994 World Cup quarter-finals.
Switzerland also qualified despite being held 1-1 at home by Kosovo. Romania are now in pole position to win Group I with a draw at home to the Swiss on Tuesday enough to secure top spot. Wales’ hopes of reaching a third consecutive European Championship were dealt a huge blow by a 1-1 draw away to Armenia. Croatia moved into second place in Group D thanks to a 2-0 win in Latvia as Lovro Majer and Andrej Kramaric struck inside the first 16 minutes. Wales must beat already-qualified Turkey in Cardiff on Tuesday and hope Croatia fail to beat Armenia at home.
Bulgaria’s forward Kiril Despodov (left) scores during the UEFA Euro qualifying Group G match against Serbia at Gradski Dubocica stadium in Leskovac, Serbia, yesterday. (AFP)