Hungary qualified for the Euro 2024 finals with a game to spare after a last-minute Alex Petkov own goal earned them a 2-2 draw against Bulgaria in Sofia.
In a game played behind closed doors due to a late venue change, Hungary took the lead through Martin Adam’s header following a free-kick from Liverpool’s Dominik Szoboszlai, after 10 minutes.
Bulgaria, bottom of Group G and without a victory in qualifying, levelled when Spas Delev fired into the top right corner in the 24th minute. Valentin Antov and Ilia Gruev were sent off for the hosts before half-time, but VAR intervened to overturn Gruev’s red card as the half ended level.
It was a Hungary player who saw red early in the second half when Milos Kerkez was sent off to cancel out the visitors’ numerical advantage. Marco Rossi’s side then suffered a major setback in the 78th minute as Kiril Despodov scored a penalty to put Bulgaria 2-1 ahead after Attila Szalai’s foul.
As Hungary’s first defeat in a year loomed Petkov headed into his own net from Szoboszlai’s corner seven minutes into stoppage time to book Hungary’s third consecutive appearance at a men’s European Championship finals.
In Group F, Sweden slumped to a first defeat against Azerbaijan, losing 3-0 despite a red card for the hosts in Baku. In Janne Anderson’s final week in charge, the already eliminated visitors quickly found themselves two goals down against a team they had beaten 5-0 in March.
Renat Dadashov punished a lapse from Victor Lindelöf, finding Emin Mahmudov to volley home in only the third minute. Three minutes later, Dadashov got on the scoresheet from Aleksey Isayev’s pass.
Soon after the restart, Behlul Mustafazade was sent off for bringing down Victor Gyökeres with the striker through on goal. A Swedish penalty was revised to a free-kick by VAR, and Emil Forsberg’s effort was turned on to the crossbar. Sweden’s humiliation was completed when Mahmudov lobbed Robin Olsen from long range in the 89th minute.
Sweden were already out of contention in Group F, with Belgium and Austria having qualified and no playoff route available to them. Azerbaijan still have an outside chance of making the playoffs. Elsewhere, Austria ended their campaign with a 2-0 victory in Estonia to leapfrog Belgium at the top of the group.
Spain closed in on securing top spot in Group A as they strolled to a 3-1 win in Cyprus. Luis de la Fuente, the Spain manager, rested several first-team regulars but had few problems against the group’s bottom side.
Barcelona’s 16-year-old star Lamine Yamal opened the scoring after dribbling past a defender and the goalkeeper in the fifth minute, his second goal for Spain. Mikel Oyarzabal struck with a tidy finish under the keeper’s legs in the 22nd minute, the goal given by VAR after initially being flagged for offside.
The Real Madrid forward Joselu scored the third six minutes later with a first-touch finish from a corner, with Kostas Pileas getting a second-half consolation for the hosts. Spain lead the group with 18 points, two ahead of second-placed Scotland, who drew 2-2 with Georgia. Both teams have already qualified for next summer’s finals.
Iceland’s Orri Oskarsson headed in the opening goal in the 17th minute but Juraj Kucka equalised at the half-hour mark before Ondrej Duda completed the turnaround six minutes later, slotting home a penalty after Kristian Hlynsson fouled him.
After the break Slovakia dominated, with Lukas Haraslin scoring two minutes into the second half and completing his brace eight minutes later with a curled shot from the edge of the box.
Andri Gudjohnsen gave Iceland hope with his 74th-minute goal but Slovakia closed out their victory to ensure they qualified for their third successive European Championship.
Group J’s leaders, Portugal, who have already qualified for next summer, won 2-0 at Liechtenstein. Despite a sluggish first half, they took the lead a minute after the break when Diogo Jota’s pass found Cristiano Ronaldo, who cut between two defenders and unleashed a left-footed shot that skimmed the crossbar before going in.
The goal extended Ronaldo’s lead as the all-time top scorer in international football by moving him to 128 goals, and he is now also the joint top scorer in Euro 2024 qualification with 10 goals, the same number as Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku.
João Cancelo extended Portugal’s lead in the 56th minute, taking advantage of a blunder by the goalkeeper Benjamin Büchel to fire into an empty net.
Source : The Guardian