Another match day, another team guaranteed to compete at the 2024 European Championship in Germany.
Here are three quick takeaways from Monday’s Euro qualifying slate, which will be followed by another set of games on Tuesday before this month’s international window closes and players return to their clubs.
Netherlands win in Greece leaves Dutch all but qualified
The Netherlands, which routed Greece 3-0 in Eindhoven last month, got what they came for in the end — and we mean end. After a scoreless first 88 minutes that included a missed penalty by Dutch striker Wout Weghorst, Greek forward Vangelis Pavlidis took down Denzel Dumfries in the box. A second spot kick was awarded following a lengthy video review, and captain Virgil van Dijk stepped up to convert the all-important winner from 12 yards past keeper Odysseas Vlachodimos.
With two games remaining against already eliminated duo Gibraltar and the Republic of Ireland, coach Ronald Koeman’s Oranje are now well-positioned to qualify for next summer’s tournament. Greece has just one match left and probably has to upset Les Bleus to have any realistic hope of claiming one of the two direct berths to the main event out of Group B.
Austria makes it official
It’s been obvious for a while now that Austria and Belgium would be the two automatic qualifiers from Group E. But while the Belgians sealed the deal on Friday in a head-to-head meeting between the sides, the Austrians had to wait for the final match of the October window.
On the surface, going to Azerbaijan and winning seemed like an easy enough task for a team that sits almost 100 places above the hosts in FIFA’s latest world ranking.
In practice, Monday’s contest was closer than most expected. It took a 49th minute penalty from substitute Marcel Sabitzer for the visitors to take the lead in Baku, and they were forced to sweat it out all the way to the end of their eventual 1-0 victory.
However it happened, they’re in. It’s Austria fourth trip to the Euros, all since 2008, and their second in a row following an appearance in the knockout stage last time out, their best ever showing so far. Ralf Rangnick’s team must believe it can do even better next summer across the German border.
Cristiano Ronaldo can’t stop scoring for Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo may not play his club soccer on the continent anymore, but the living legend — who will be 39 when the Euros kick off next June — is still scoring for his country at an exceptional rate.
The Portuguese captain had two goals last Friday as his side won its seventh straight qualifier to ensure its participation in Germany. With a tournament berth in the bag, Ronaldo struck twice again on Monday in a 5-0 pasting of Bosnia and Herzegovina. His penalty opened Portugal’s account, and Ronaldo doubled the visitors’ advantage before halftime by notching his 127th career international tally.
Joao Cancelo, Joao Felix and Bruno Fernandes completed the scoring, all of which came in the first half. The lopsided win kept Portugal perfect in Group J. Ronaldo has played in seven of those games, scoring nine times.
Behind Portugal, Slovakia took a firm grip on second place with a 1-0 victory in Luxembourg, with substitute David Duris bagging the winner against the run of play. Those two results left Bosnia and Herzegovina fifth out of six teams in Group J. But because the Bosnians won their group in the UEFA Nations League, they are ensured of a backdoor path: a spot in March’s playoffs that will determine Euro 2024’s final three invitees.
Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.
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