Friday, March 24, 2023

Euro 24 Qualifiers

The Premier League is on pause as players represent their countries in international competition. Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane immediately made news this international break by becoming England’s all-time leading scorer. Kane’s historic goal came in a 2-1 victory over Italy in Euro 24 qualifying on Thursday. A 44th minute penalty was Kane’s 54th goal in an England uniform, breaking the record of Wayne Rooney. Ironically, Kane’s first goal for England came in a 2015 Euro qualifier where he was a late substitute for the former Manchester United great. Kane was also on the pitch when Rooney became England’s leading scorer, breaking the record of Sir Bobby Charlton. The record is now Kane’s, and the 29-year-old is far from finished and likely to set a challenging mark for future English goal scorers. England’s top goal scorer has recorded a goal every 1.5 games he’s played for his country.

The 2-1 win over Italy provided a positive launch to England’s Euro campaign but Gareth Southgate will be looking for improvement from the squad. Manchester United’s Harry Maguire was guilty of an error leading to the goal by Italy’s Mateo Retegui and Maguire’s club teammate Luke Shaw earned a red card in the 80th minute which made the final minutes more stressful than necessary. Maguire continues to start for Southgate despite falling out of favor with Manchester United Manager Eric ten Hag.

Kalvin Philips is another player who started the match versus Italy despite seeing minimal minutes for his club team Manchester City this season. Supporting Kane’s record performance was strong midfield play by Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham which kept England in control of the match. Rice would score the first goal for England. Borussia Dortmund’s Bellingham is perennially rumored to be a transfer target of Premier League clubs. West Ham’s Gianluca Scamacca and Arsenal’s Jorginho were among the Italian Premier League players facing England. Leeds’s 19-year-old Wilfried Gnonto also was a late substitute for Italy and his energy added to England’s worries in the final minutes. England hosts Ukraine on Sunday in Euro qualifying.

Former Manchester United legend Cristiano Ronaldo joined Kane in making history on Thursday. Ronaldo’s 197th match for Portugal established a new international appearances world record. The prolific goal scorer, with now 120 international goals, had two of the Portuguese goals in a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein in the countries’ Euro 24 qualifier. Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva  and Joao Cancelo (currently on loan to Bayern Munich) also scored for Portugal.

Friday’s Euro Qualifiers will include a high-profile match between France and the Netherlands. France begins to pick up the pieces after its loss in the World Cup final versus Argentina. The Netherlands will play its first match under new manager Ronald Koeman. Koeman, whose tenure as Barcelona manager ended badly in 2021, has Premier League ties from managerial stints with Southampton and Everton and is undertaking a second term as the Dutch manager. The Dutch were eliminated in the World Cup quarterfinals in penalty kicks by eventual winner Argentina. Having failed to qualify for the 2022 World Cup, Norway will be without its superstar striker Erling Haaland when the country faces Spain in Euro qualifying Saturday. Haaland sustained a groin injury in Manchester City’s FA Cup win over Burnley which will have him sitting out this international break. Missed time by Haaland when the Premier League resumes in another week could impact the Citizens title battle with Arsenal.

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