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France 4-0 Netherlands, Sweden 0-3 Belgium: Euro 2024 qualifying – as it happened

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The new France captain Kylian Mbappé lived up to expectations with two goals in a 4-0 statement home win against the Netherlands as Les Bleus got their Euro 2024 Group B qualifying campaign started in ruthless fashion.

Mbappé, named skipper after goalkeeper Hugo Lloris ended his international career in January, set up Antoine Griezmann for the opener before scoring the third, after Dayot Upamecano had doubled the tally in a first-half blitz, before wrapping the scoring up late in front of an ecstatic crowd.

With Lloris and also influential centre back Raphäel Varane out of the international picture, France aimed to impress in their first game since losing the World Cup final against Argentina on penalties in December and did just that against a virus-hit Dutch side under their new manager.

The result was a slap in the face for Ronald Koeman in charge of his first match since he took over from Louis van Gaal, after the Oranje reached the World Cup quarter-finals in Qatar, for his second stint after a first spell from 2018-2020.

France lead Group B ahead of Greece, who beat Gibraltar 3-0 away. Didier Deschamps’s side next face Ireland in Dublin on Monday while the Netherlands host Gibraltar.

The Dutch, missing five players after the squad was ravaged by a viral infection, got off to a woeful start as Les Bleus broke the deadlock after two minutes, Griezmann finishing off a superb move in style with a curled shot from Mbappé’s cross inside the area.

The visiting defence then made a mess of Griezmann’s free kick and Upamecano bundled the ball home to double the advantage in the eighth minute. Mbappé made it 3-0 after 22 minutes, rolling the ball in from close range in clinical fashion after being played through by Aurélien Tchouaméni.

The Netherlands briefly threatened on the break but Memphis Depay’s attempt went just wide as Koeman sent striker Wout Weghorst on for midfielder Kenneth Taylor in the 33rd minute. France came close again when Ibrahima Konaté’s header was tipped away by Jasper Cillessen nine minutes before the break.

The Dutch had an early chance in the second half with a Depay free-kick but Upamecano and Konate continues to marshal the French central defence.

Randal Kolo Muani, who started as a lone forward in France’s 4-3-3 formation, also put in a decent display until he was substituted for Olivier Giroud in the 76th minute.

France then took things easy before travelling to Dublin, but Mbappé rubbed salt into the Dutch wounds, dancing his way towards the area before unleashing a powerful cross-shot for the fourth goal and 38th in 67 appearances.

Mike Maignan, the No 1 keeper since Lloris’s retirement, then saved Depay’s stoppage-time penalty, leaving fans wondering what might have been if he had been between the posts in the final at the World Cup final – a tournament he missed through injury.

Meanwhile in Stockholm, Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as they claimed a 3-0 win over Sweden which overshadowed Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s much-anticipated return to international football in their opening Group F Euro 2024 qualifier.

The win at the Friends Arena gave new Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco the perfect start as his side seek to bounce back form a disappointing group-stage exit at the Qatar World Cup but Janne Andersson’s Sweden posed little threat.

Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal. Photograph: Tt News Agency/Reuters

Dejan Kulusevski thought he had given the home side the lead in the 15th minute as he cut in from the right and drove a low shot through the legs of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois but Wout Faes was on hand to stop the ball crossing the line.

Lukaku broke the deadlock in the 35th, outjumping Hjalmar Ekdal to head home a cross from the left by Dodi Lukebakio, who had tormented the Sweden defence from the kick off.

The Belgium striker then took advantage of more slack marking to double his side’s advantage early in the second half as Lukebakio picked him out again with a low cross which he turned in from close range.

The introduction of 41-year-old Ibrahimovic in the 73rd minute after a long absence due to injury prompted an ear-splitting roar from the crowd.

Ibra’s first touch of note came seven minutes later as he chested the ball down in the box but he lost his footing on the notoriously poor pitch at Sweden’s national arena and the chance was snuffed out.

Three minutes later Lukaku killed the game off as the home defence suffered another collective collapse, leaving him with another tap-in to complete his treble and an easy win for the visitors. (Reuters)

That’s all for tonight’s blog, though we’ll have a round-up on the site later. Thanks for your company and emails – night.

“I’ll be honest Rob,” says Simon McMahon of my earlier challenge, “I gave up in disgust after realising that Matt Elliott wasn’t on the 1998 Ballon d’Or longlist.”

How to play association football, by K Mbappe

Full time

Peep peep! That was the last action in Paris, where France – inspired by their new captain Kylian Mbappe – produced a scintillating performance to thrash the Netherlands.

Romelu Lukaku was the night’s other big star, scoring a hat-trick as Belgium got off to a fine start under their new manager Dominico Tedesco.

These are the final scores.

Group B

  • France 4-0 Netherlands

  • Gibraltar 0-3 Greece

Group E

Group F

  • Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan

  • Sweden 0-3 Belgium

Group G

  • Bulgaria 0-1 Montenegro

  • Serbia 2-0 Lithuania

Maignan saves Depay’s penalty!

France 4-0 Netherlands A perfect moment to end a great night for France: Depay’s tame penalty is saved by Mike Maignan, who gets to his feet to stop the follow-up as well.

Mike Maignan saves the penalty from Memphis Depay to round off a torrid night in Paris for the Dutch.
Mike Maignan saves the penalty from Memphis Depay to round off a torrid night in Paris for the Dutch. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

France 4-0 Netherlands One of the scariest things about this France performance is the list of players who didn’t start the game: Camavinga, Kante, Pavard ,Thuram, Nkunku…

Wait, hang on: the Netherlands have a penalty after Weghorst’s diving header hits the outstretched arm of Upamecano. That law is such an ass.

Have your say

Is Kylian Mbappe the greatest captain in football history?

“The second Nations League was wrecked as a spectacle by Covid (all that time I spent making bookings for Reykjavik, Brussels and Copenhagen…),” writes my colleague Philip Cornwall. “The second was wrecked by doubling as World Cup warm-ups. But the first … The three games you could actually go to (Wembley defeat by Spain; winning in Seville; 0-1, 1-1, 2-1 v Croatia) were more engaging to be at than any qualifiers between Munich 2001 and Naples 2023, I think. And were it not for Southgate needing to use the most recent one for pre-Qatar experimentation, Naples 2023 would not have been on the schedule.

“As long as there are no more winter World Cups the Nations League should be of a higher quality for England than general qualification.”

Yes, that’s the best thing about it; teams are much more likely to face their peers, but there is still plenty of scope for self-improvement (or going off the rails spectacularly).

GOAL! France 4-0 Netherlands (Mbappe 88)

Kylian Mbappe wraps it up with a delightful individual goal. He nicked a loose pass 40 yards from goal and charged straight to the edge of the D. Mbappe sat Daley Blind down with one dummy, when beat Timber with another before crashing a low drive into the bottom corner. That was frighteningly good.

The sublime Kylian Mbappe scores a fourth goal for France.
The sublime Kylian Mbappe scores a fourth goal for France. Photograph: Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

GOAL! Czech Republic 3-1 Poland (Szymanski 87)

Sweden 0-3 Belgium Ibrahimovic has a half-chance, heading too close to Courtois from a left-wing cross.

France 3-0 Netherlands Moussa Diaby has just had a goal disallowed for offside.

GOAL! Moldova 1-1 Faroe Islands (Nicolaescu 87 pen)

GOAL GIVEN! Sweden 0-3 Belgium That was Romelu Lukaku’s last touch; he’s been replaced by Sebastiaan Bornauw. After the misery of that Croatia game at the World Cup, when he almost broke the xG algorithm, it’s been a cathartic night for Lukaku.

GOAL! Sweden 0-3 Belgium (Lukaku 83)

A hat-trick for Romelu Lukaku! It was another simple tap-in after great work on the right, this time by the debutant substitute Johan Bakayoko. He left two defenders on the floor, moved into the area and slid the ball across to give Lukaku an open goal.

It was very close to being offside, mind you, and it’s being checked by VAR.

Romelu Lukaku celebrates his hat-trick.
Romelu Lukaku celebrates his hat-trick. Photograph: Shutterstock

Here comes Zlatan! 🦁🇸🇪

The 41-year-old striker arrives on the pitch as a substitute to incredible applause from the Swedish fans 👏

In doing so, he becomes the oldest player to appear in UEFA EURO qualifying 🌟#EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/C5aRUlWOkO

— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) March 24, 2023

France 3-0 Netherlands Jasper Cillessen makes a decent save to deny Mbappe a second goal. France have been far too good tonight.

Sweden 0-2 Belgium To huge cheers, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, 41, replaces Alexander Isak – and displaces Dino Zoff as the oldest man to play in a European Championship game.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes on a substitute for Sweden.
Sweden bring on the pacy Zlatan Ibrahimovic to stretch the legs of a tired Belgian defence. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

The latest scores with just under 20 minutes remaining

Group B

  • France 3-0 Netherlands

  • Gibraltar 0-3 Greece

Group E

Group F

  • Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan

  • Sweden 0-2 Belgium

Group G

GOAL! Austria 4-1 Azerbaijan (Baumgartner 69)

Christoph Baumgartner celebrates scoring the fourth Austrian goal with Marcel Sabitzer.
Christoph Baumgartner celebrates scoring the fourth Austrian goal with Marcel Sabitzer. Photograph: Leonhard Föger/Reuters

Gibraltar 0-3 Greece

“G’day Rob…” says Chris Paraskevas. “It’s probably not on many people’s radar but the Greeks under Gus Poyet look competent. It’s ten years since they’ve been to a major tournament. Since then we’ve had to suffer the ignominy of the Faroe Islands debacle under Claudio Ranieri (a truly disastrous reign) and Kostas Manolas airing the national team’s dirty laundry on Greek talk shows.

“That Ireland game in June could be a ‘cracker’. Confirming also that we aren’t playing with 10 men behind the ball and a back seven… yet. Time to break out the bootle/official Euro 2004 highlights DVDs (I have three copies!).”

I always thought they didn’t get enough credit for winning Euro 2004; there was very little luck involved. That’s my memory anyway, although I confess I wasn’t in the best condition for the France game.

Sweden 0-2 Belgium Emil Forsberg misses a terrific chance at one end, slipping in the act of shooting; Yannick Carrasco ripples the side netting at the other.

GOAL! Czech Republic 3-0 Poland (Kuchta 64) Fernando Santos’s first game as Poland manager isn’t one he remember with much fondness, or indeed any.

Fernando Santos, Poland head coach.
Fernando Santos’s Polish team are being outclassed in Prague. Photograph: Martin Divíšek/EPA

France 3-0 Netherlands Griezmann’s corner is headed over at the near post by Rabiot.

GOAL! Austria 3-1 Azerbaijan (Makhmudov 64) There goes another clean sheet.

Sweden 0-2 Belgium Sweden have brought on a centre forward: Coventry’s Viktor Gyokeres.

France 3-0 Netherlands Kolo Muani has just missed a great chance, denied by the legs of Emi Martinez slashing a close-range volley over the bar after a tremendous counter-attack led by Coman.

GOAL! Serbia 2-0 Lithuania (Vlahovic 53)

France 3-0 Netherlands A bit of a strange incident in Paris. Tchouameni thought there was a problem with the ball and picked it up just outside the France area; the referee disagreed and gave a free-kick to the Netherlands. No matter: Depay’s free-kick was shovelled over the bar by Maignan.

GOAL! Gibraltar 0-3 Greece (Bakasetas 58) Job done for Greece, who would love to qualify for the Euros on the 20th anniversary of their bewildering miracle.

Anastasios Bakaseta scores another for Greece.
Anastasios Bakaseta scores another for Greece. Photograph: Joao Matos/AP

Sweden 0-2 Belgium No sign of Ibrahimovic yet. Sweden have played pretty well, in truth, but Belgium have been more efficient in the final third.

France 3-0 Netherlands It’s been a quiet start to the second half in Paris. France will be happy to conserve a bit of energy ahead of Monday’s trip to Dublin. The Netherlands are at home to Gibraltar the very same night.

The latest scores

Group B

  • France 3-0 Netherlands

  • Gibraltar 0-2 Greece

Group E

Group F

  • Austria 3-0 Azerbaijan

  • Sweden 0-2 Belgium

Group G

GOAL! Austria 3-0 Azerbaijan (Sabitzer 50)

Marcel Sabitzer gets his second of the night in Linz, and his third in six days for foster club and country.

Marcel Sabitzer score the third for Austria.
Marcel Sabitzer score the third for Austria. Photograph: Leonhard Föger/Reuters

GOAL! Sweden 0-2 Belgium (Lukaku 47)

Romelu Lukaku gets his second, and again it was made by the impressive Lukebakio. He took a short corner on the right, beat Forsberg easily and rammed a low cross that was turned in from a couple of yards by Lukaku.

Romelu Lukaku scores again for Belgium.
Romelu Lukaku scores again for Belgium. Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Images

“I agree re: Nations League (unless you were being facetious),” says Robert Speed. “It’s a better format. The bloated Euro finals removes too much jeopardy from both qualifying and the group stage at the finals. And Fifa in its wisdom is doing the same for the next World Cup. I can see the Nations League becoming a more popular and prestigious tournament than the Euros over time. A bit like how the league is preferred over the cup domestically.”

Peep peep! The second halves are under way.

“Just saw the France highlights during halftime,” writes Joe Pearson. “Wow, that’s some pink hair, Griezmann! Are you using the same hairdresser as Megan Rapinoe?”

It’s nice of you to ask, Joe, but I’ve been bald for about 17 years.

Half-time reading

Half time

Peep peep! Plenty of first-half goals – 12 in seven games, to be precise – and the half-time scores. France are hammering the Netherlands, with Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann inevitably to the fore; Romelu Lukaku has given New(ish) Belgium the lead in Sweden, and the improving Faroe Islands are 45 minutes away from victory in Moldova.

Group B

  • France 3-0 Netherlands

  • Gibraltar 0-2 Greece

Group E

Group F

  • Austria 2-0 Azerbaijan

  • Sweden 0-1 Belgium

Group G

Sweden 0-1 Belgium

Here’s the goal from Romelu Lukaku that has put Belgium ahead in Solna.

GOAL! Gibraltar 0-2 Greece (Siopis 45)

I don’t know what else to tell you.

Manolis Siopis scores the second goal for Greece.
Manolis Siopis scores the second goal for Greece. Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

Sweden 0-1 Belgium Don’t quote me, because I’m trying to follow 50 games at once, but this seems a pretty entertaining match. Both teams have made important saves, and as I type Emil Forsberg has just slid a brilliant low cross that was begging to be walloped into the net from five yards.

The latest scores

Group B

  • France 3-0 Netherlands

  • Gibraltar 0-1 Greece

Group E

Group F

  • Austria 2-0 Azerbaijan

  • Sweden 0-1 Belgium

Group G

GOAL! Sweden 0-1 Belgium (Lukaku 35)

Romelu Lukaku, whose World Cup ended so hideously, has put Belgium ahead with his 69th international goal. It wasn’t the cleanest finish – paradoxically, given the lack of cleanliness, it involved both head and shoulders as he diverted Dodi Lukebakio’s brilliant inswinging cross past Robin Olsen from six yards. After the year he’s had, he’ll take them any which way.

Romelu Lukaku of Belgium celebrates with teammates after scoring the team's first goal.
Could Euro 2024 be a last hurrah for the Golden Generation™? Photograph: Linnea Rheborg/Getty Images

There have been a few goals elsewhere

  • Moldova 0-1 Faroe Islands (Mikkelsen 27)

  • Austria 2-0 Azerbaijan (Sabitzer 28, Gregoritsch 29)

And…

France 3-0 Netherlands And here’s that Mbappe goal, finished with precisely 100.00 per cent certainty.

“It’s Mbappé, it’s inevitable!” 🎙

France look unstoppable as they go 3-0 up against the Dutch and Kylian Mbappé has his first goal as skipper 🇫🇷#EURO2024 pic.twitter.com/y0NbujAapr

— Viaplay Sports UK (@ViaplaySportsUK) March 24, 2023

France 3-0 Netherlands Ronald Koeman has made a tactical substitution after only 33 minutes: Kenneth Taylor off, Wout Weghorst on.

France 3-0 Netherlands Depay misses an excellent chance, poking Simons’ cross wide from about eight yards. He was under pressure from Upamecano, but it was still a really good chance.

“This is kind of the reverse of the World Cup final, in that France suffered an outbreak of some nasty virus then, and this time it’s the Netherlands,” says Kári Tulinius, reading my very own mind. “I think what’s probably more remarkable is that a flu-ridden French team was a hairsbreadth from beating Messi’s Argentina.”

Emiliano Martinez of Argentina gestures with his Golden glove award during the World Cup Final.
If only the French team hadn’t got the flu. Sliding doors and all that. Photograph: Marc Atkins/Getty Images

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