Serbian players celebrate reaching the European Championship for the first time (Andrej Isakovic)
Portugal ended its Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a perfect record, beating Iceland 2-0 on Sunday, after Serbia booked its place in next year’s finals in Germany and Romelu Lukaku scored four goals for Belgium.
Bruno Fernandes and Ricardo Horta scored the goals for Portugal, led by Roberto Martinez, with Cristiano Ronaldo not on the scorers list, so the group ended with ten wins from 10 matches.
The 2016 champion will be among the favorites to win the title in what could be 38-year-old Ronaldo’s last major tournament.
Slovakia finished in second place, eight points behind Portugal, after a 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Zenica.
Luxembourg, who will qualify for the qualifiers, trailed by a further five points after wrapping up their impressive group stage display with a 1-0 win in Liechtenstein.
Earlier on Sunday, Serbia qualified for the first time as an independent country, after four previous failures to reach the main event, with a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria.
The Serbs finished second in Group G behind Hungary, which dashed any hopes of qualifying for Montenegro with a 3-1 win in Budapest.
Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic said: “The players showed the mentality of not giving up and believing in themselves.
“It’s a great day for Serbian football. Serbia has finally reached the European Championship.
“I congratulated my children who fought until the end and believed. We are happy and satisfied.”
Centre-back Milos Veljkovic put Serbia ahead in the 17th minute, before Georgi Rusev equalized for Bulgaria in the 59th minute.
Ten minutes later, Kirill Despodov put the visitors ahead, but Srdjan Babic equalized eight minutes from time, ensuring Serbia became the 17th team to qualify for Euro 2024.
Montenegro needed Serbia to lose to have any hope of securing their place in Germany, but they also needed to win against the Hungarians, who had achieved an impressive win during the qualifiers.
Slobodan Rubisic put Montenegro ahead in the 36th minute but Hungary responded in the second half with two goals in three minutes through Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai before Zsolt Nagy sealed the win in stoppage time.
– Lukaku is on fire –
Lukaku scored four goals in the match that ended with Belgium defeating Azerbaijan 5-0.
Roma striker Lukaku extended his record tally of international goals for Belgium to 83, with all his goals coming in a brilliant first half in Brussels.
He opened the scoring in the 17th minute when he converted a cross from Jeremy Doku, before Edi Israfilov received a second yellow card seven minutes later, leaving the Azerbaijani team with a mountain to climb.
Lukaku fired the ball home soon after and then headed in to Wout Weiss’s pass to complete his hat-trick.
He ended his goal streak with four goals in 20 minutes before being replaced by Luis Obinda at half-time.
The Belgians stopped playing in the second half, but Leandro Trossard added the fifth goal in the 90th minute with another assist from Doku.
Belgium finished Group F at the top of the group, one point ahead of Austria, as both of them finished qualifying with matches before the end.
Sweden ended its miserable journey in which it failed to qualify for the European Championship for the first time since 1996, with a 2-0 victory over Estonia in the other match in the group.
– Javi injury –
Barcelona star Javi limped off with a serious knee injury during Spain’s 3-1 win over Georgia, which secured top spot in Group A above Scotland.
The 19-year-old was subjected to a tackle from behind in the first half, bending the knee that was on him, before leaving the field in tears.
“It is a very difficult and difficult moment,” Spain coach Luis de la Fuente said.
He added, “For the (Spanish Football) Federation, for me and for his friends. But above all for him and for his club.”
“We are devastated. Football is a risky sport and this is the ugly part of our sport.”
Goals from Robin Le Normand and Ferran Torres and an own goal from Luka Lukoshvili helped Spain overcome a lively Georgia, who were leveled 1-1 early on by Napoli star Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
Scotland, who already qualified, needed to beat Norway and hoped that Spain would retreat to grab first place, but they tied 3-3 at Hampden Park.