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Italy, Hungary, Denmark keep Euro hopes alive

October 15, 2023 09:48 IST
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A summary of Saturday's action in the 2024 UEFA European Football Championship qualifiers.

Italy's players celebrate victory over Malta in the Euro 2024 Qualifier Group C qualifier at Stadio San Nicola, Bari, Italy, on Saturday.

IMAGE: Italy's players celebrate victory over Malta in the Euro 2024 Qualifier Group C qualifier at Stadio San Nicola, Bari, Italy, on Saturday. Photograph: Alessandro Garofalo/Reuters

Italy forward Domenico Berardi scored twice as the home side cruised to a 4-0 win over Malta in their Euro 2024 Group C qualifier on Saturday while Hungary, Slovenia and Denmark also enjoyed victories as they chase a place at the finals.

European champions Italy had few problems at the Stadio San Nicola in Bari against a struggling Malta side without a win so far in the qualifying campaign for the tournament in Germany.

Luciano Spalletti's were missing several key players, including Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Mateo Retegui and Federico Chiesa, all sidelined by injury.

Sandro Tonali and Nicolo Zaniolo also left the squad earlier this week after being informed of their involvement in an investigation by Turin prosecutors.

Italy's win leaves them in second place ahead on goal difference of Ukraine, who won 2-0 against North Macedonia. Both teams have 10 points but Italy have a match in hand on all their group rivals except England, who top the group with 13 points.


England host Italy in their next qualifier on Tuesday.

Giacomo Bonaventura opened the scoring after 23 minutes, netting his first international goal with a skilful right-foot curler into the top corner from just inside the penalty area.

At 34 years and 53 days, midfielder Bonaventura became the oldest Italy player to score his first goal for the national team - more than 10 years after his debut.

Berardi increased Italy's lead with a left-foot curler just before halftime and added his second goal in the 64th minute with a precise finish from a cut-back.

In the closing moments, Davide Frattesi scored the final goal of the night, skilfully slotting a low shot from the edge of the area into the bottom corner.

Italy face England at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday when a win would put them level on points with Gareth Southgate's side, who will themselves clinch a place at the finals with a victory.

Hungary remain top of Group G after beating second-placed Serbia 2-1, with all the goals coming in the first half. Hungary have 13 points, three points above Serbia with a game in hand.

The Hungarians will qualify for the European Championship if they win away to Lithuania on Tuesday.

In Group H, leaders Slovenia beat third-placed Finland 3-0 with a Benjamin Sesko double, including a penalty and a late goal by Erik Janza. They are level on 16 points with second-placed Denmark, who won 3-1 at home to Kazakhstan.

France, Portugal, Belgium qualify

Meanwhile, France's Kylian Mbappe rediscovered his touch in spectacular fashion as he grabbed a double to lead his side to a 2-1 away win over an injury-ravaged Netherlands and early qualification for Euro 2024 on Friday.

The World Cup runners-up, who will be joined in the June 14-July 14 tournament in Germany by Portugal and Belgium as one of the first three teams to qualify, kept a perfect record in Group B with six wins.

Portugal have also won all their matches in Group J after Goncalo Ramos's goal and a double by Cristiano Ronaldo earned them a 3-2 home victory against Slovakia in Group J.

Belgium went through in Group F with a 3-2 win away to Austria, who would themselves have qualified with a victory, as Dodi Lukebakio scored twice before Romelu Lukaku wrapped up the points after the break.

At the Johan Cruijff Arena, France were comfortable for more than 80 minutes, even if a couple of mistakes by goalkeeper Mike Maignan could have cost them dearly.

Mbappe, who left the training camp for a day for personal reasons this week, volleyed home in the seventh minute from Jonathan Clauss's perfect cross before pointing to the sky with both hands.

It came as a relief for Mbappe, who had not scored in his last four competitive outings.

Les Bleus allowed the hosts to gain a bit of confidence before the interval but Mbappe made sure there would be no comeback eight minutes into the second half.

The 24-year-old, who has had an inconsistent start to the season with Paris St Germain, collected a subtle layoff from Adrien Rabiot before curling a sublime shot into the far top corner from the edge of the box for his 42nd international goal.

It took him past France great Michel Platini into fourth place on the national team's all-time top scorers list behind Olivier Giroud (54) Thierry Henry (51) and Antoine Griezmann (44).

Griezmann was playing a record-extending 81st consecutive game for France.

The Netherlands reduced the arrears through Quilindschy Hartman in the 83rd minute with the 21-year-old's first goal on his debut, and it was the first goal France conceded in the qualifying campaign.

Greece boosted their qualifying hopes with a 2-0 win in Ireland to take second place in the group on 12 points, three ahead of the Netherlands who have a game in hand.

France, who have not missed a Euros since 1988, next face Scotland in a friendly next week while the Netherlands travel to Greece for their next qualifier on Monday.

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