Serbia has secured a spot in Euro 2024, marking their first appearance in the tournament as an independent country. This was achieved after a tense 2-2 tie against Bulgaria in their last Group G match on Sunday.
The team led by Dragan Stojkovic was aware that they only needed a tie, even if Montenegro defeated the already qualified Hungary. Montenegro, who is in third place in the group, took the lead in Budapest but ultimately lost 3-1. On the other hand, Serbia initially fell behind in the second half, but Srdjan Babic’s late equalizer secured their spot in the next round.
The hosts seemed to have a simple task ahead when Milos Veljkovic scored with a header in the 16th minute, but the fans in Leskovac started to feel anxious after Montenegro’s Slobodan Rubezic also scored in the first half, 500 miles away.
Bulgaria, currently at the bottom of their group and still searching for their first victory, made a comeback in the second half. Georgi Rusev scored the equalizing goal in the 59th minute with a skillful shot. Despite hitting the bar in the first half, Kiril Despodov surprised the home fans by scoring a goal 10 minutes later, lifting the ball over Vanja Milinkovic-Savic and giving the visitors the lead.
Fortunately for Serbia, it was soon reported that Dominik Szoboszlai had scored two goals in just two minutes, giving Hungary the lead. In the 82nd minute, Babic then scored with a header from a short distance, resulting in a tie and sparking the beginning of celebrations.
In the first half of the game, Romelu Lukaku from Belgium scored four goals within 20 minutes, leading his team to a 5-0 win against a 10-man Azerbaijan in Group F. Despite the windy conditions in Brussels, Lukaku showed exceptional precision in his shots, bringing his total goals in the group to 14 in just eight games and securing Belgium’s spot at the top. Azerbaijan ended up in fourth place.
The team playing at home scored four goals within 37 minutes due to an early red card given to Azerbaijan’s Eddy Israfilov for receiving a second booking after a reckless tackle on Lukaku. Belgium’s Leandro Trossard scored a fifth goal towards the end of the game, but it was their captain Lukaku who led the charge with a total of 83 international goals in 113 matches before being substituted at half-time.
Sweden emerged victorious with a 2-0 score against Estonia in their Group F match. This marked the end of Janne Andersson’s seven-year tenure as manager of Sweden, which ended on a high note with goals scored by Viktor Claesson and Emil Forsberg.
Robin Le Normand and Ferran Torres from Spain both scored goals, and Luka Lochoshvili’s own goal sealed a 3-1 victory against Georgia in their last match of Group A. With seven wins out of eight matches, the hosts secured first place with 21 points. They only lost to second-place team Scotland, who finished with 17 points after a 3-3 tie with Norway.
In the fourth minute, Spain took the lead when Torres took a free-kick from the left and Le Normand scored his first international goal with a header. Georgia equalized six minutes later with a fast break and easy finish by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. Spain faced another setback when their Barcelona midfielder Gavi had to leave the field in tears due to a possible knee injury. The hosts regained their lead 10 minutes into the second half with a header from Torres before Lochoshvili accidentally scored an own goal in the 72nd minute.
Luis de la Fuente, the coach of Spain, spoke about Gavi’s injury, stating that it was a tough and challenging moment for not only the player but also for Barcelona, the federation, the national team, his teammates, and himself. The team was devastated and the atmosphere in the locker room was as if they had suffered a loss. However, this is an inevitable aspect of soccer, its less favorable side.
Portugal earned a 10th win from 10 games to finish off a perfect qualification campaign via a 2-0 victory against Iceland. Bruno Fernandes scored the opener in the first half before the substitute Ricardo Horta doubled the hosts lead on 66 minutes.
Slovakia, who finished second in Group J, ended their campaign with a 2-1 triumph over Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were able to come back from a losing position thanks to goals by Robert Bozenik and Lubomir Satka. However, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Renato Gojkovic received a red card, which further aided Slovakia’s victory. Despite being reduced to 10 players early on due to Danel Sinani’s red card, Luxembourg managed to secure a 1-0 win over Liechtenstein.