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EURO 2024 qualifiers

Spain and Italy step up chase of runaway Euro leaders

Spain players celebrate after scoring against Cyprus. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/ AFP

Spain crashed in six in Euro 2024 qualifying on Tuesday while Belgium were also big winners as Italy revived their campaign and Austria and Switzerland stayed on course for qualification.

Substitute Ferran Torres struck twice for Spain, while Gavi, Mikel Merino, Joselu and debutant Alex Baena were also on target as they beat Cyprus 6-0 in Granada.

Spain closed to six points behind runaway Group A leaders Scotland with a game in hand. The two teams meet in the next round in Seville on October 12

“Our objective is clear — win the rest of the games,” coach Luis De la Fuente told Spanish broadcasters TVE.

“We want to finish top of the group.”

Norway kept alive their faint chance of catching either Scotland or Spain while ending Georgia’s hopes of qualifying with a 2-1 victory in Oslo. 

Erling Haaland gave Norway the lead with his seventh goal in five competitive matches this season and his 25th in 26 internationals. Martin Odegaard added a second before Budu Zivzivadze responded deep in added time.

Davide Frattesi ensured that Italy got their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign back on track with a brace in an entertaining 2-1 win over Ukraine which moved the Azzurri second in Group C.

Inter Milan midfielder Frattesi rifled in two low finishes in the first half-an-hour at the San Siro to give Luciano Spalletti his first success on his home debut as coach of the European champions.

Italy moved level on seven points with Ukraine, who scored through captain Andriy Yarmolenko four minutes before half-time, and North Macedonia.

Italy occupy the second of two automatic qualifying places on head-to-head record between those three teams, six points behind England who have played a game more.

“We need to be happy,” said Spalletti to broadcaster Rai. “The team played good football and was well-organised on the pitch,” 

Ukraine drew with England on Saturday.

“It was hard for us to play so soon after playing against England,” said Ukraine coach Serhiy Rebrov.

Next month Italy face Malta in Bari before travelling to Wembley, the site of their triumph at the last Euro, to take on England.

‘Perfect night’

Belgium leapfrogged Austria at the top of Group F on goal difference even though both sides won.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice as Belgium crushed Estonia 5-0 in Brussels while Austria, facing a much trickier trip to Solna, beat Sweden 3-1.

“A perfect night: 5-0, clean sheet. A goal, my 150th game,” said veteran Belgium defender Jan Vertonghen who opened the scoring

“We have many players who are no longer part of the national team,” the 36-year-old added. “I didn’t feel ready for that yet.”

In Sweden, Austria scored three times in 16 second-half minutes.

Michael Gregoritsch hit the first and Marko Arnautovic the next two before Emil Holm replied in the 90th minute.

The top two have a seven-point cushion over Sweden.

“Now we can breath a bit,” said Austria coach Ralf Rangnick.

Switzerland stayed top of Group I after making hard work of a 3-0 victory of last-place Andorra.

Cedric Itten gave the hosts a 49th minute lead in Sion. Granit Xhaka, in the 84th minute, and Xherdan Shaqiri with a penalty deep in added time, gave a little polish to the final score.

Romania stayed two points behind in second after they beat Kosovo 2-0 in Bucharest in a game delayed after home fans unfurled an anti-Kosovo banner in the first half.

Even though the visitors played with 10 men from the 42nd minute when striker Verdat Muriqi was sent off, the hosts did not take the lead until captain Nicolai Stanciu, who had earlier missed a penalty, scored with seven minutes left. Valentin Mihaila added a sceond deep into added time.

Israel left it later, Gabi Kanichowsky scoring the only goal as they beat Belarus 1-0 in Tel Aviv in the third minute of added time to keep Israel a point behind Romania.

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