Football Features

Lukaku landmark in San Marino hammering: The Euro 2020 qualifier action you may have missed

By Mohamed Moallim

Published: 22:12, 10 October 2019

Thursday saw matchday seven of the Euro 2020 qualifiers get underway with no fewer than eight matches taking place this evening following two late afternoon games.

Cyprus ran out 2-1 winners at Kazakhstan with Belarus and Estonia played out a goalless draw before the likes of Belgium, Croatia, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Russia, Scotland and Wales sprang into action.

All were looking to get one step closer to qualifying for next year’s championship. With so much happening, it’s only natural if you miss an important or memorable event.

But don’t fret, Squawka is here, with six things you might have missed from Thursday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.

1. Fortress De Kuip

The Netherlands are one of many international teams who don’t have a fixed abode. This isn’t a terrible thing, as the national team belongs to the entire nation. However, they feel a different proposition when playing at the intimidating De Kuip, home of Feyenoord Rotterdam, with tonight’s meeting with Northern Ireland being the 125th international Oranje played here.

Since losing a World Cup qualifier against Portugal (0-2) here in 2000, they’d go on to register a 26-match unbeaten streak, winning the last 16 on the bounce, and many observers felt that run would continue. It barely did. Josh Magennis had given the hosts a shock lead, 15 minutes from time, before Memphis Depay and Luuk de Jong turned it around. Depay would grab his second in stoppage time as Oranje claimed a 3-1 win.

2. Lukaku reaches a half-century

So much has been written about Romelu Lukaku that it’s been easily forgotten what a formidable marksman he’s been for Les Diables Rouges. He is Belgium’s all-time leading scorer with Eden Hazard (30) a few goals behind.

A routine meeting against lowly San Marino offered him a chance to enter the history books, an opportunity he wasn’t going to relinquish. Lukaku, by finding the net, became the 21st European footballer to register at least 50 international goals. He’d add one more in a straightforward 9-0 victory which secured Belgium’s place in next summer’s pan-European tournament.  Roberto Martinez’s side are the first to book their passage.

3. Home Sweet Home

Tonight was the sixth time reigning Ballon d’Or holder Luka Modric played at home since guiding Croatia to a runners-up finish at the 2018 World Cup finals. In the previous five, he could only muster an assist as Croatia claimed a 3-2 win over Spain.

His last home goal, before today, was all the way back in November 2017 (4-1 v Greece). Not exactly renowned for his goalscoring, this effort against Hungary, which broke the deadlock in a 3-0 win, was only his 16th across 125 appearances for his country.

4. Lewandowski continues his ECQ love affair

If Robert Lewandowski isn’t the best ‘number nine’ in world football, he’s most certainly a strong candidate. His ruthlessness in front of goal cannot be understated. For club side Bayern Munich, he’s terrorised defenders up and down the Bundesliga and across Europe.

Poland, since the Warsaw striker broke through in 2008, have greatly benefited from his services. It’s now 60 international goals following this hat-trick away to Latvia (0-3). But more interestingly aside from registering a sixth international treble, Lewandowski has now bagged 18 goals across 17 UEFA Euro qualifying matches.

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5. Not over yet for Scotland

Scotland’s last chance of reaching Euro 2020 and subsequently ending a 22-year major tournament participation drought now lies in next March’s play-offs, which they previously secured thanks to the Nations League.

But this was yet another disappointing performance on the road for Steve Clarke’s men, who in the space of 27 second-half minutes in Moscow fell to a miserable 4-0 defeat to Russia. A meeting with San Marino awaits them on Sunday, which gives them a chance for an immediate bounce back and to fill their boots.

6. Giggs under pressure

Despite winning their previous two matches heading into tonight’s game in Slovakia, there’s a sense Ryan Giggs has lost the goodwill of Wales support. Many seem to feel that, under his leadership, the Dragons look passive and regressing. But, the former Manchester United winger knows football is a results business.

If he continues pulling out these wins then his position shouldn’t become untenable. Wales had lost their last three matches on the road before leaving Slovakia with a point, after snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. This leaves them three points behind their hosts, who sit in second with Croatia leading the way in Group E.