» Sports » PIX: France thrash Netherlands; Belgium beat Sweden

PIX: France thrash Netherlands; Belgium beat Sweden

March 25, 2023 11:42 IST
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IMAGE: Kylian Mbappe scores France's third goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying round group B match against the Netherlands at Stade de France in Paris, on Friday. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

New France captain Kylian Mbappe lived up to expectations with two goals in a 4-0 statement home win against the Netherlands as Les Bleus got their Euro 2024 Group B qualifying campaign started in ruthless fashion on Friday.


Mbappe, named skipper after Hugo Lloris ended his international career in January, set up Antoine Griezmann for the opener before scoring the third, after Dayot Upamecano had doubled the tally in a first-half blitz, before wrapping the scoring up late in front of an ecstatic crowd.

Mike Maignan, the number one goalkeeper since Lloris stepped aside, then saved Memphis Depay's stoppage-time penalty.

With influential centre back Raphael Varane also now out of the international picture, France aimed to impress the fans in their first game since losing the World Cup final against Argentina on penalties in December and did just that against a virus-hit Dutch side under their newly-appointed manager.

The result was a slap in the face for Ronald Koeman in charge of his first match since he took over from Louis van Gaal, after the Oranje reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar, for his second stint after a first spell from 2018-2020.

"It's great," said Mbappe. "We didn't want to concede a goal so everyone is happy. Mike doesn't like to concede goals and for his first time as number one he got a clean sheet.

"We're all behind him. We prepared ourselves saying we couldn't disappoint the fans for this first game here after the World Cup."

IMAGE: France's players celebrate after Dayot Upamecano scored the second goal for France. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

France lead Group B ahead of Greece, who beat Gibraltar 3-0 away. Didier Deschamps's side next face Ireland in Dublin on Monday while the Netherlands host Gibraltar.

The Dutch, missing five players after the squad was ravaged by a viral infection, got off to a woeful start as Les Bleus broke the deadlock after two minutes, Griezmann finishing off a superb move in style with a curled shot from Mbappe's cross inside the area.

The visiting defence then made a dog's dinner of Griezmann's free kick and Upamecano bundled the ball home to double the advantage six minutes later.

"If you're 2-0 behind after seven minutes it will of course be a hell of a job," said Netherlands captain Virgil van Dijk.

"We just started badly and then you are behind... Then they play a fairly simple match with their qualities. We'll have to look at this, it's difficult to analyse it so quickly, but 2-0 behind after seven minutes is just a shame."

It got worse for the Dutch when Mbappe made it 3-0 after 22 minutes, rolling the ball in from close range in clinical fashion after being played through by Aurelien Tchouameni.

The visitors briefly threatened on the break but Depay's attempt went just wide as Koeman sent striker Wout Weghorst on for midfielder Kenneth Taylor in the 33rd minute.

France came close again when Ibrahima Konate's header was tipped away by Jasper Cillessen nine minutes before the break.

The Netherlands had an early chance in the second half with a Depay free kick but that was as close as they got with Upamecano and Konate marshalling the French central defence.

Randal Kolo Muani, who started as a lone forward in France's 4-3-3 formation, also put in a decent display until he was substituted for Olivier Giroud in the 76th minute.

France then took things easy before travelling to Dublin, but Mbappe rubbed salt into Dutch wounds, dancing his way towards the area before unleashing a powerful cross-shot for the fourth goal and his 38th in 67 appearances.

Maignan's late penalty save then left fans wondering what might have been if the AC Milan keeper had been in goal for the final at the World Cup - a tournament he missed through injury.

Belgium beat Sweden as Lukaku overshadows Ibrahimovic

IMAGE: Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring Belgium's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 qualifying round group F match against Sweden and Belgium at Friends Arena in Stockholm. Photograph: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as they claimed a 3-0 win over Sweden which overshadowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic's much-anticipated return to international football in their opening Group F Euro 2024 qualifier on Friday.

The win at the Friends Arena gave new Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco the perfect start as his side seek to bounce back form a disappointing group-stage exit at the Qatar World Cup but Janne Andersson's Sweden posed little threat.

Dejan Kulusevski thought he had given the home side the lead in the 15th minute as he cut in from the right and drove a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois but Wout Faes was on hand to stop the ball crossing the line.

Lukaku broke the deadlock in the 35th, outjumping Hjalmar Ekdal to head home a cross from the left by Dodi Lukebakio, who had tormented the Sweden defence from the kickoff.

IMAGE: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 41, became the second oldest player to feature in a European Championship qualifier. Photograph: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

The Belgium striker then took advantage of more slack marking to double his side's advantage early in the second half as Lukebakio picked him out again with a low cross which he turned in from close range.

The introduction of 41-year-old Ibrahimovic in the 73rd minute after a long absence due to injury prompted an ear-splitting roar from the crowd as the striker became the second oldest player to feature in a European Championship qualifier.

Ibra's first touch of note came seven minutes later as he chested the ball down in the box but he lost his footing on the notoriously poor pitch at Sweden's national arena and the chance was snuffed out.

Three minutes later Lukaku killed the game off as the home defence suffered another collective collapse, leaving him with another tap-in to complete his treble and an easy win for the visitors.

Sabitzer double guides Austria to victory

IMAGE: Marcel Sabitzer celebrates scoring Austria's third goal against Azerbaijan at Raiffeisen Arena, in Linz. Photograph: Leonhard Foeger/Reuters

Austria's Marcel Sabitzer scored twice as they profited from a dominant first-half performance to secure a comfortable 4-1 home win over Azerbaijan in their opening Euro 2024 Group F qualifier on Friday.

Sabitzer, who is on loan at Manchester United from Bayern Munich for the second half of this season, collected a pass from Christoph Baumgartner in the box and thrashed the ball into the back of the net for the opener just before the half-hour mark.

Austria doubled their advantage a minute later as Michael Gregoritsch scored, before Sabitzer curled a wonderful free-kick into the corner of the net early in the second period.

Azerbaijan pulled a goal back when Emin Makhmudov finished from a tight angle and they briefly threatened a comeback, but Baumgartner got the goal his excellent performance deserved to restore the three-goal advantage for the hosts.

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