Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku scored four first-half goals to lead a 5-0 rout of 10-man Azerbaijan in their final European Championship qualifying game and Serbia locked up their spot at Euro 2024 after drawing 2-2 with Bulgaria.
Spain’s 3-1 win over Georgia on Sunday was overshadowed by Barcelona midfielder Gavi suffering a serious injury to his right knee.
Lukaku leads scoring in the qualifiers with 14 goals, four more than Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and five ahead of France’s Kylian Mbappe.
Lukaku’s haul is a record for a European Championship qualifying campaign, beating the previous mark of 13 goals held by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski (in Euro 2016 qualifying) and Northern Ireland’s David Healy (in Euro 2008 qualifying).
The Roma striker took all four of his goals between the 17th and 37th minutes in an awesome display of clinical finishing.
Following Lukaku’s opener to make it 1-0, Azerbajian went down to 10 players in the 24th after Eddy Pascual got his second yellow card.
Belgium had already qualified along with Austria from Group F before the game in Brussels.
Serbia needed a draw or for Montenegro to not beat Hungary to advance to next year’s tournament in Germany.
There was a moment when Serbia appeared to be in trouble after Montenegro went ahead 1-0 against Hungary while Bulgaria led Serbia 2-1.
But Serbia defender Srdan Babic’s equaliser in the 82nd ensured that it needed no help.
The already-qualified Hungary rallied to beat Montenegro 3-1, led by midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai’s brace.
Hungary finished Group G with 18 points from eight games. Serbia was second with 14, and Montenegro third with 11.
Ferran Torres scored one goal after setting up Robin Le Normand’s opener in Spain’s 3-1 win to finish atop Group A.
Gavi was in tears when he limped off the field in the 24th minute in Valladolid.
On Monday, his La Liga club announced that Gavi will be sidelined for several months as he requires surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
Henry pat for Mbappe
Paris: Kylian Mbappé has scored 300 career goals faster than Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Former France great Thierry Henry has nothing but admiration.
Mbappé achieved the feat over the weekend in a 14-0 rout of Gibraltar at the age of 24 years and 333 days. Both Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, the game’s two biggest stars in the 21st century, were older when they reached the milestone.
“What this kid is doing is really out of this world,” said Henry, who is now in charge of leading the new generation of France’s players as coach of the Under-21 team. “It’s just unbelievable.”
Mbappé was often compared to Henry earlier in his career. Both attended France’s Clairefontaine academy before playing as left wingers at Monaco, where each won the French league titles as a teenager. Mbappé then replicated another of Henry’s accomplishments when he won the 2018 World Cup in his first major tournament with France. Henry won the 1998 tournament.
With his 17th career hat-trick, Mbappé brought his season tally to 21 goals in 19 matches.