Mbappe and France crush Netherlands, Lukaku hits Belgium hat-trick

By AFP
March 26, 2023

PARIS: Kylian Mbappe marked his first game as France captain with a brace in a 4-0 demolition of the Netherlands in Euro 2024 qualifying on Friday, while Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as Belgium began a new era with a 3-0 victory in Sweden.

In Paris, France were three goals up before the midway point in the first half of their Group B opener against a Dutch side depleted by a virus.

Mbappe, who has taken over the armband from long-term skipper Hugo Lloris, set up his vice-captain Antoine Griezmann to open the scoring inside two minutes at the Stade de France.

Griezmann, with his hair dyed pink, then set up the second goal in the eighth minute as his free-kick was bundled in from close range by Dayot Upamecano after Dutch goalkeeper Jasper Cillessen failed to clear the danger.

Mbappe then ran through to make it 3-0 after Randal Kolo Muani had cleverly left an Aurelien Tchouameni through ball, and the Paris Saint-Germain superstar wrapped up the win in emphatic fashion late on.

A perfect evening for Les Bleus was completed when Mike Maignan, France’s new first-choice goalkeeper, saved a stoppage-time Memphis Depay penalty.

“We didn’t want to disappoint our fans. This was our first game back here after the World Cup and we really wanted to pick up where we left off there, except for the final,” Mbappe, who now has 38 goals in 67 appearances for his country, told broadcaster TF1.

This was the first time the Netherlands had lost by a four-goal margin since going down to defeat by the same scoreline against France in Paris in August 2017.

France’s next game is away to the Republic of Ireland on Monday, while the Netherlands host Gibraltar.

Gus Poyet’s Greece beat Gibraltar 3-0 in Faro, Portugal, on Friday, with Giorgos Masouras, Manolis Siopis and captain Anastasios Bakasetas all scoring for the 2004 European champions.

Knocked out of the World Cup in the group stage, Belgium have since seen Roberto Martinez depart and he has been replaced as coach by Domenico Tedesco.

He could not have asked for a better debut as Inter Milan forward Lukaku scored all the goals away in Sweden in Group F.

Lukaku headed in the opener on 35 minutes and then netted with a tap-in, in off Victor Lindeloef, after being set up by Dodi Lukebakio early in the second half.

The 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench for Sweden before Lukaku made it 3-0 with another easy finish.

“To take three points and score three goals in Sweden is never easy for any team,” Tedesco told Belgium’s RTBF.

In the same section, Marcel Sabitzer scored twice as Ralf Rangnick’s Austria beat Azerbaijan 4-1 at home in Linz. Michael Gregoritsch and Christoph Baumgartner also scored for the hosts.

Robert Lewandowski’s Poland got off to a losing start in Group E in their first game under new coach Fernando Santos, the man who led Portugal to glory at Euro 2016.

Ladislav Krejci and Tomas Cvancara scored in the first three minutes for the hosts in Prague and Jan Kuchta later got the third.

Damian Szymanski pulled one back for Poland as Lewandowski was kept quiet.

Moldova needed a late penalty to draw 1-1 at home to the Faroe Islands in the same group.

In Group G, Dusan Tadic and Dusan Vlahovic scored the goals as Serbia beat Lithuania 2-0 in Belgrade while Montenegro were 1-0 winners away in Bulgaria, Nikola Krstovic getting the winner.

Qualifying for next year’s finals in Germany continues on Saturday when Spain face Norway and Croatia take on Wales.