European Championship Qualifying roundup: England smash Malta, France ease past Gibraltar

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European Championship Qualifying roundup: England smash Malta, France ease past Gibraltar

Trent celebrates with teammates following his goal
Trent celebrates with teammates following his goalAFP
Trent Alexander-Arnold inspired England to a comfortable victory over Malta, France breezed past Gibraltar thanks to Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe, Denmark survived a late VAR scare to edge past a resilient Northern Ireland, and lots more in Friday's European Championship qualifiers.

Malta 0 England 4

Trent celebrates with Kane
Trent celebrates with KaneProfimedia

England continued their perfect start to UEFA Euro 2024 qualifying as a stellar performance from Trent Alexander-Arnold helped Gareth Southgate’s side to a convincing 4-0 victory over Malta, extending the Three Lions’ impressive form in European Championship qualifiers to 23 wins from their last 27 matches. 

Having suffered a pair of narrow defeats to North Macedonia and Italy in their opening two Group C fixtures, Malta knew the odds were stacked firmly against them as table-toppers England made the trip to Southern Europe.

True to form, it was the Three Lions who wasted little time in asserting their authority on proceedings, as an inviting cross from Bukayo Saka was inadvertently bundled into his own net by Ferdinando Apap to give the visitors the lead inside ten minutes.

Buoyed by the early breakthrough, England looked to move through the gears in a dominant first-half showing, and their superiority was rewarded with two goals in the space of three minutes.

First, Alexander-Arnold - seemingly at home in a more central position - curled a superb long-range effort into the top corner, before Harry Kane tucked home from the spot after being brought down by Matthew Guillaumier.

Faced with a daunting three-goal deficit, Malta emerged after the restart desperate to stem the tide. However, it was only England’s profligacy in front of goal which prevented further damage to the scoreline, as James Maddison and Kane both fluffed their lines when well-placed in the box.

With victory all but sealed, the visitors coasted through the final half-hour, as Southgate introduced Eberechi Eze for his long-awaited Three Lions debut.

That provided England with a spark in the final third, and Callum Wilson converted a late penalty after Steve Borg was harshly adjudged to have handled in the box, wrapping up a comfortable victory for the visitors. 

The result sees England move six points clear at the top of Group C. Meanwhile, Malta remain bottom after a third consecutive defeat.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Trent Alexander-Arnold (England

See stats from the match at Flashscore

 

Gibraltar 0 France 3

Giroud and Mbappe both scored for France
Giroud and Mbappe both scored for FranceAFP

France’s 3-0 victory over a stubborn Gibraltar saw last year’s FIFA World Cup finalists maintain their perfect start to their UEFA European Championship qualifying, making it three wins out of three in Group B at the Estádio Algarve.

Coming into the latest round of Euro 2024 qualifiers as FIFA’s 201st-ranked nation, facing a side 199 places better off and even forced to play outside of their home country due to their own stadium not meeting UEFA’s standards, Gibraltar were faced with adversity before a ball was even kicked.

As a result, there was an overwhelming sense Los Llanis’ search for a first-ever victory in a qualifying campaign would be extended, and Olivier Giroud’s headed opener inside three minutes, which was teed up from the right flank by Kingsley Coman and put away from six yards, kickstarted the anticipated chain of events.

However, for all of the pre-match expectancy placed on Les Bleus, amongst their star-studded cast was a breadth of youthful talent, two of which were debutants Brice Samba and Wesley Fofana, whilst four other starters sat below the 25-cap mark.

This meant they did not run away with it as many presumed, though Kylian Mbappé did eventually double his country’s lead in the third minute of first-half injury time. He tucked in with confidence from the penalty spot after a VAR intervention found Roy Chipolina to have handled in the box, albeit from close proximity.

The French dominance showed no signs of stopping in the second period, and Antoine Griezmann should have immediately added a third from inside the penalty area, but instead steered Theo Hernández’s cutback onto the outside of the right post.

This would become the story of the second half - France pushing their opponents to their limits, probing with a massive 71% possession, but failing to test Dayle Coleing when it counted.

Didier Deschamps’ men had only produced one shot on target before they finally managed to find the back of the net for the third time, and even then it took an own goal to beat Gibraltar’s goalkeeper. Mbappé was unleashed down the left wing before crossing into the box, where substitute Aymen Mouelhi got his right boot to the ball, only to see it diverted into a gaping net.

This wrapped up a comfortable night for the visitors, who travel back home with the opportunity to go six points clear of their next opponents in Group B, Greece, on Monday.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Kylian Mbappé (France)

See stats from the match at Flashscore

 

Denmark 1 Northern Ireland 0

Wind celebrates the only goal of the game
Wind celebrates the only goal of the gameProfimedia

Denmark overcame a valiant performance from Northern Ireland to win 1-0 in European Championship Qualifying (ECQ) Group H, ending the Green and White Army’s four-game unbeaten run in H2Hs.

The teams had identical records going into this contest, having won their opening ECQ match before losing their second, but Denmark remained the firm favourites to bounce back from their shock in Kazakhstan.

While De Rød-Hvide dominated possession, Northern Ireland frustrated the Parken Stadium crowd early on by slowing down proceedings and Shayne Lavery’s deflected effort on the quarter-hour mark was the first shot on target.

Even though gaps appeared as the first half progressed, with the Green and White Army fatiguing and Denmark continuing to probe, there always seemed to be somebody from Michael O’Neill’s side getting something on the ball when it mattered most. That eventually resulted in the hosts resorting to strikes from range to no avail, as Christian Eriksen’s free-kick sailed off target before Joachim Andersen’s powerful effort was comfortably stopped by Bailey Peacock-Farrell as Northern Ireland entered the break unscathed.

However, all of that work was undone within two minutes of the restart, as Ciaron Brown’s unconvincing clearance from Joakim Mæhle’s cross fell to Jonas Wind for the forward to slam home his first international goal since Euro 2020.

A superb ball from Peacock-Farrell released Isaac Price who conjured a strike that forced an impressive save from Kasper Schmeichel, although Denmark were largely in control after being visibly lifted by their opener as Pierre-Emile Højbjerg came agonisingly close with a venomous strike.

Callum Marshall thought he had earned himself the debut of dreams when he showed incredible instincts to convert from Jonny Evans’ knockdown in the final moments, but the 18-year-old’s goal was ruled out after a lengthy VAR check, as Denmark joined Finland, Kazakhstan and Slovenia on six points in ECQ Group H. To make matters even worse for Northern Ireland, they now sit fifth after back-to-back defeats.

Flashscore Man of the Match: Simon Kjær (Denmark)

See stats from the match at Flashscore

 

Other qualifying results:

Andorra 1 Switzerland 2

Belarus 1 Israel 2

Greece 2 Republic of Ireland 1

Kosovo 0 Romania 0

Latvia 2 Turkey 3

North Macedonia 2 Ukraine 3

San Marino 0 Kazakhstan 3

Wales 2 Armenia 4

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