Kane hat-trick fires England into Euro 2020

On song
Harry Kane scored a first half hat-trick as England booked their place in the finals of Euro 2020 as group winners with a crushing 7-0 victory over Montenegro. Reuters
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London: Harry Kane scored a first half hat-trick as England booked their place in the finals of Euro 2020 as group winners with a crushing 7-0 victory over Montenegro at Wembley Stadium on Thursday.

England lead Group A on 18 points with one game remaining and can now look forward to next year's tournament in which the semifinals and final will be played at Wembley.

Montenegro, level on three points with Bulgaria at the bottom of the table, offered no examination of the credentials of Gareth Southgate's side for the tournament, which begins in June, but England's total of 33 goals from seven games certainly shows the potency of their attack.

"We've won a group that we should win but we've won it comfortably and we've found a way of playing against those lower-ranked teams that defend in numbers," said Southgate.

"We've found a way to break them down, which maybe in the past we haven't," he added.

Southgate again put his faith in youth, with the starting line-up's average age of 23 years and 255 days, the youngest Three Lions side since 1959.

As expected, Manchester City's Raheem Sterling was left out by Southgate as punishment for his role in an altercation with Liverpool's Joe Gomez at England's training camp on Monday. Gomez was booed by some fans at Wembley when he entered came on as a substitute.

But even without Sterling, England have no shortage of options in attack with Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford lining up alongside Kane in a three-pronged attack.

Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, whose progress with the national team has been hampered by injury, put England ahead in the 11th minute, drilling into the bottom corner after left-back Ben Chilwell found him with a clever chip over the defence.

Leicester City's Chilwell created the second seven minutes later with a free-kick that picked out Kane, who smartly glanced home a header.

The same pair combined for the third with Kane losing his marker to head in a corner from Chilwell.

Manchester United striker Rashford drove home the fourth, after Montenegro goalkeeper Milan Mijatovic parried out Harry Maguire's header.

Kane wrapped up his hat-trick in the 37th minute, with a sharp turn and shot into the bottom corner as England went into the break 5-0 up.

Mason Mount had a goal disallowed for offside but an own goal from Aleksandar Sofranac made it six after a scramble in the box.

Substitute Tammy Abraham grabbed his first England goal, six minutes from the end, sliding in at the near post to convert a low cross from Sancho.

Ronaldo dazzles

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo scored another treble, moving closer to 100 international goals, as he led the European champions to a 6-0 drubbing of Lithuania in a qualifier on Thursday.

Ronaldo, whose hat-trick was the 55th of his career and ninth for Portugal, has 98 goals and could become only the second player to score a century for his country after Iran's Ali Daei.

Goal machine
Ronaldo, whose hat-trick was the 55th of his career and ninth for Portugal, has 98 goals and could become only the second player to score a century for his country after Iran's Ali Daei. Reuters

Pizzi, Goncalo Paciencia and Bernardo Silva shared the other goals in the one-sided Group B match.

The European champions, however, were left waiting to secure a place at the finals after Serbia beat Luxembourg 3-2.

Portugal are in second place with 14 points, one ahead of Serbia, and will qualify if they win in Luxembourg on Sunday. Leaders Ukraine have already qualified.

Czechs through

Czech Republic punched their ticket to Euro 2020 by coming from behind to beat Kosovo 2-1 as Alex Kral scored one goal and set up another to give the hosts second spot in Group A.

The Czechs dominated possession but failed to convert their chances in the first half before falling behind when striker Atdhe Nuhiu scored against the run of play in the 50th minute.

But the home side roared back and levelled in the 71st minute when midfielder Kral pounced on a loose ball and unleashed a fierce strike that gave the Kosovo keeper no chance.

The goal energised the Czechs who hit the woodwork twice in quick succession before 21-year-old Kral directed a header towards Ondrej Celustka who guided the ball home in the 79th.

The Czechs, who play Bulgaria on Sunday, have 15 points and will finish second in the group behind England.

Turkey, France qualify

Turkey qualified for the Euro 2020 finals with a goalless draw in a Group H against Iceland, with the result also ensuring France a place in the championships.

They join Belgium, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain, Ukraine and England as the teams who have already qualified for the tournament that will be staged across 12 European countries from 12 June to 12 July 2020.

France's efforts to celebrate their qualification were almost spoiled by Moldova, with an Olivier Giroud penalty sparing their blushes as they came from behind to win 2-1 and go top of Group H.

The visitors took the lead in the ninth minute when France defender Clement Lenglet followed up a bad defensive header with an even worse one, giving Moldovan striker Vadim Rata the chance to poke the ball home.

France equalised in controversial circumstances in the 35th minute as Giroud contested with Moldova keeper Alexei Cosele for a free- kick lifted into the box, forcing Cosele to spill the ball for Raphael Varane to head into an empty net.

The Moldova players protested vehemently that their keeper was fouled by Giroud, but Lithuanian referee Gediminas Mazeika waved away the protests and allowed the goal to stand.

Despite the glittering array of attacking players at their disposal, France struggled to break down the dogged Moldovans, and it took a 79th-minute Giroud penalty for a foul on Lucas Digne to secure the three points.

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