Sports

UEFA European Championship 2024 Qualifiers: Belgium Striker Romelu Lukaku Scores Record Four Goals; Serbia Seal Berth

Romelu Lukaku's four first-half goals helped Belgium beat Azerbaijan 5-0 in their European Championship 2024 Qualifiers match. Spain beat Georgia but their midfielder Gavi suffered an injury during the match

Romelu Lukaku scored his fourth goal against Azerbaijan during the European Championship 2024 match
info_icon

Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored four first-half goals to lead a 5-0 rout of 10-man Azerbaijan in their final European Championship qualifying game, and Serbia locked up its spot at Euro 2024 after drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria. Spain's 3-1 win over Georgia on Sunday was overshadowed by Barcelona midfielder Gavi suffering what appeared to be a serious injury to his right knee. (Football News)      

Lukaku leads scoring in the qualifiers with 14 goals, four more than Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and five ahead of France's Kylian Mbappe. Lukaku's haul is a record for a European Championship qualifying campaign, beating the previous mark of 13 goals held by Poland's Robert Lewandowski (in Euro 2016 qualifying) and Northern Ireland's David Healy (in Euro 2008 qualifying).     

The Roma striker took all four of his goals between the 17th and 37th minutes in an awesome display of clinical finishing. "It was an outstanding performance by Romelu," Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco said. "He scored with every shot. You can't do better." Following Lukaku's opener to make it 1-0, Azerbajian went down to 10 players in the 24th after Eddy Pascual got his second yellow card.

Belgium had already qualified along with Austria from Group F before the game in Brussels, but the victory meant it finished in first place with 20 points from eight games, one point more than Austria. Sweden beat Estonia 2-0 and ended up third in the group. Lukaku, who was also celebrating his son's birthday, said that his team was poised to "go far" in Germany.     

Lukaku started qualifying by scoring a hat trick against Sweden in March. The 30-year-old striker only failed to score in one of the eight qualifying games. Azerbaijan frustrated him in September in a 1-0 win for Belgium. He has also scored nine goals in 14 games for Roma since he was loaned to the Italian club from Chelsea in the offseason.     

Serbia Advances     
Serbia needed a draw or for Montenegro to not beat Hungary to advance to next year's tournament in Germany. There was a moment when Serbia appeared to be in trouble after Montenegro went ahead 1-0 against Hungary while Bulgaria led Serbia 2-1. But Serbia defender Srdan Babic's equalizer in the 82nd ensured that it needed no help.     

The already-qualified Hungary rallied to beat Montenegro 3-1, led by midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai's brace. Hungary finished Group G with 18 points from eight games. Serbia was second with 14, and Montenegro third with 11. Hungary secured its place on Thursday when it won at Bulgaria. 

The match was marred by violence when local fans clashed with police on the streets of Sofia during a protest over the management of the national soccer union. Only the top two finishers from each of the 10 groups advance. Another three spots will be determined in a playoff linked to performances in the Nations League. Host Germany automatically qualifies.     

Spain Midfielder Gavi Injured     
Ferran Torres scored one goal after setting up Robin Le Normand's opener in Spain's win to finish atop Group A. Gavi was in tears when he limped off the field in the 24th minute in Valladolid. Gavi's goal for Spain in a 1-0 win at Norway in October had already secured spots for both Spain and Scotland at next year's tournament in Germany.     

The 19-year-old Barcelona player took a hard hit to the side of his right knee when he and a Georgia player collided a few minutes before he had to come off. He kept playing and appeared to hurt the same leg while trying to control a ball. After that he immediately signaled to the team that he could not continue. Scotland was second with 17 points after it drew 3-3 with Norway in a Glasgow thriller.     

Perfect 10 For Portugal     
Bruno Fernándes and Ricardo Horta scored in Portugal's 2-0 win over Iceland in Lisbon to make it a clean sweep of 10 wins in as many qualifiers for Roberto Martínez's team. Slovakia beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 2-1 also in Group J, and Luxembourg beat Liechtenstein 1-0. Portugal and Slovakia had already qualified.

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement

Advertisement