Portugal, Belgium, and France have all qualified for Euro 2024 in Germany after winning qualifying matches this evening.
All three nations went into Friday night’s play knowing their futures were firmly in their own hands and that victory would guarantee their ticket on the aircraft next summer.
At one point, it appeared that they would all keep their part of the agreement fairly routinely, but fightbacks from their opponents in each match made things a little more tense than they would have been.
Portugal and Belgium, on the other hand, won 3-2 over Slovakia and Austria, respectively, while France defeated fellow European powerhouse Netherlands 2-1 in Amsterdam.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in his 202nd appearance for Portugal, becoming the first male player in history to have 125 international goals.
Before Ronaldo’s brace, Goncalo Ramos had already given Roberto Martinez’s team the lead in the 18th minute, with the first coming from the penalty spot and the second coming from close range after Bruno Fernandes had fired a low ball across goal.
Portugal’s great record of not conceding a goal in qualification until tonight was broken three minutes before Ronaldo’s second goal, when David Hancko momentarily halved the deficit for Slovakia, and Stanislav Lobotka reduced the deficit to one goal 10 minutes from time.
However, the visitors were unable to score an equalizer in Porto, and Austria suffered the same fate in their winner-takes-all clash with Belgium.
The top two teams in Group F knew that the winner would qualify, and Belgium appeared to be on their way to that fate when they took a 3-0 lead in Vienna.
Dodi Lukebakio’s first two international goals, either side of halftime, placed them in command before Romelu Lukaku added a third to his prolific run this season.
However, Austria rallied in the final 20 minutes, with Konrad Laimer giving them hope in the 73rd minute before Marcel Sabitzer converted from the penalty spot 11 minutes later.
Belgium’s Amadou Onana was also sent off between those two goals, heightening Austria’s chances of a miraculous comeback, but the visitors held on to secure their spot in Germany.
World Cup finalists France will join Portugal and Belgium in the tournament next summer, thanks in large part to Kylian Mbappe’s outstanding performance against the Netherlands.
The Paris Saint-Germain forward scored twice to equal Michel Platini’s all-time goal scoring record, with the Netherlands only managing an 83rd-minute Quilindschy Hartman goal in response.
Hosts So far, Germany is the only other country that has been assured a place in next summer’s tournament, though more countries could join the already-qualified quartet in the second round of matches during this international break.