France’s Kylian Mbappe spectacularly rediscovered his touch as he grabbed a double to lead his side to a 2-1 away win against an injury-ravaged Netherlands and early qualification for Euro 2024 on Friday. The World Cup runners-up, who will be joined in the June 14-July 14 tournament in Germany by Portugal and Belgium as one of the first three teams to qualify, kept a perfect record in Group B with six wins from their opening six games.
Mbappe’s first came in the seventh minute, collecting a delightful pass from Jonathan Clauss to volley beyond Bart Verbruggen for his 41st international goal. It moved the Paris Saint-Germain star past Michel Platini and put him fourth on the national team’s all-time top scorer list. He added a second after the break, playing a clever one-two with Adrien Rabiot on the edge of the penalty area before sending his sublime effort soaring over Verbruggen. Feyenoord midfielder Quilindschy Hartman pulled a goal back on his debut in the 83rd. Still, Mbappe’s third in the final 10 minutes sealed the victory and made it clear that France will head to Germany with a two-point advantage over the Netherlands in second place.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice as his side hung on with a two-goal lead to beat Slovakia 3-2 in Porto and secure a first-place finish in Group J and a ticket to next year’s finals. Goncalo Ramos and Ronaldo converted from the penalty spot after David Hancko had equalized for Slovakia. Ronaldo made it 3-0 in the 72nd minute by connecting with a low cross from Bruno Fernandes to nod past goalkeeper Martin Dubravka for his 125th international goal.
Greece are the other early qualifiers, having moved to second with a 2-0 home victory over Ireland in Dublin thanks to goals from Georgios Giakoumakis and Georgios Masouras. Stephen Kenny’s side had hoped to join the Dutch in second, but they can now only hope to take the last automatic berth from a play-off with Slovenia, who slipped up in Belfast as they were held 1-1 by Finland.
In the other match, unbeaten Belgium survived a late Austria fightback to complete their qualification for Euro 2024 in Vienna. Romelu Lukaku and Dodi Lukebakio scored as the visitors looked on course to make it a clean sweep of victories in their group. However, Konrad Laimer’s long-range drive and a Marcel Sabitzer penalty with 13 minutes remaining left them needing to hold on to their nerve. They did so comfortably, though, despite being reduced to 10 men when Amadou Onana was shown a second yellow card for a tackle on Arthur Theatre in his box.