Euro 2024 qualifiers: Romania clinch top spot; France held

IMAGES from the Euro 2024 qualifiers played on Tuesday.

Romania held off Switzerland to secure a 1-0 home victory thanks to a second-half goal from Denis Alibec to finish their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign unbeaten and top of Group I on Tuesday.

In the battle for first place, Alibec tapped in from close range in the 50th minute to break the deadlock for Romania, who finished with 22 points. The Swiss, who would have leap-frogged Romania into top spot with a win, ended second on 17 points.

Both teams clinched their Euro 2024 places on Saturday. Romania beat Israel 2-1 while Switzerland’s 1-1 draw with Kosovo was enough to qualify.

There were some tense moments late in Tuesday’s match when Switzerland defender Manuel Akanji went down with an injury but the Manchester City player finished the game after treatment.

Stengs grabs hat-trick as Dutch thrash Gibraltar 6-0

Netherlands’ Calvin Stengs netted a hat-trick as they easily disposed of Gibraltar 6-0 in their Euro 2024 qualifier on Tuesday although the Dutch did not come anywhere near to France’s record score at the weekend.

Mats Wieffer, Teun Koopmeiners and substitute Cody Gakpo added the other goals for an experimental Dutch side completing their qualifying campaign, having already secured their place at next year’s finals in Germany.

Stengs had the Dutch ahead in the 10th minute and added two more after the break, completing his treble with a strong left- foot effort inside the penalty box.

The Dutch goal haul, however, was nothing near the 14 that France scored against Gibraltar in Nice on Saturday to set a record in the European Championship qualifiers.

But visiting Dutch coach Ronald Koeman looked to use many of his up-and-coming talents in a match that followed his side’s 1-0 win over Ireland on Saturday that secured qualification.

Teenage defender Jorrel Hato came on at halftime for captain Virgil van Dijk and became, at 17 years and eight months, the fifth youngest player to be capped by the Netherlands.

They finished second behind France in Group B while Gibraltar ended bottom after losing all eight games, conceding 41 and failing to score.

Tuesday’s result means Gibraltar have conceded 20 goals in their two internationals this month while goalkeeper Dayle Coleling, 27, has now let in 101 goals in 31 appearances.

France held to 2-2 draw as Greece spoil flawless qualifying campaign

Greece came from a goal down to hold France to a 2-2 draw in their final Euro 2024 qualifier in Group B on Tuesday, denying Didier Deschamps’ side a perfect record in their qualifying campaign.

Randal Kolo Muani scored just before halftime before Greece levelled in the 56th minute through Anastasios Bakasetas and Fotis Ioannidis gave the hosts the lead five minutes later. Youssouf Fofana equalised for France in the 74th minute.

The match had nothing at stake for either side after France, who finished with seven wins and a draw, and the Netherlands had claimed the top two spots to qualify for the finals and third-placed Greece had secured a place in the playoffs.

Les Bleus were looking to end the qualifying competition with a 100% record for the first time since completing the feat ahead of Euro 2004, having also achieved a perfect run to reach the 1992 tournament when coach Deschamps was playing.

Deschamps made eight changes to his starting lineup with Theo Hernandez, Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann the only players who started on Saturday when they demolished 10-man Gibraltar 14-0 in a record Euro qualifying win.

France controlled the early possession but did not create a clear chance in the opening 30 minutes and captain Griezmann hit the post from close range after the half-hour mark.

Yet the opener arrived before the break when Olivier Giroud teed up Kolo Muani who fired into the roof of the net from a tight angle.

Greece, Euro 2004 champions, levelled in the 56th minute through midfielder Anastasios Bakasetas, who struck with a volley from outside the box, and Fotis Ioannidis gave Greece the lead five minutes later.

France continued to dominate possession and Fofana equalised for the visitors with a powerful shot from distance while Kingsley Coman thought he had grabbed a winner but VAR showed his effort did not fully cross the goal line.

France substitute Kylian Mbappe, who ended the qualifying campaign with nine goals, had a last-gasp chance to seal the win but hit the bar deep into stoppage time.

Budimir seals Croatia qualification for Euro 2024 in Armenia win

Ante Budimir’s second international goal was enough for Croatia to book their place at the Euro 2024 finals in Germany following a 1-0 victory over Armenia in Zagreb on Tuesday, enough for a top two finish in qualification Group D.

Croatia camped in the Armenia half without creating clear-cut chances until Budimir’s headed goal two minutes before halftime. Borna Sosa’s cross from the left was perfect for the forward to get ahead of his marker and score from six yards out.

Luka Modric was superb for the home side as he belied his 38 years and pulled the strings in midfield, allowing them to control the tempo in the second half and create several other scoring chances that were spurned.

It is a sixth successive qualification for the continental finals for Croatia, and their seventh overall, having finished second and third at the last two World Cup finals, but never gone beyond the quarter-finals at the Euros.

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