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Posted at: Sep 11, 2019, 7:18 AM; last updated: Sep 11, 2019, 7:18 AM (IST)

Belgium, Netherlands, Germany step closer to Euro 2020

Paris, September 10

Belgium and the Netherlands both cruised to 4-0 wins over Scotland and Estonia respectively in Euro 2020 qualifying on Monday, while Germany claimed a crucial victory over Northern Ireland in their bid to qualify for next year’s finals.

Roberto Martinez’s Belgium, the world No. 1 ranked side, were not at their best but still swatted aside Scotland at Hampden Park to make it six wins from as many matches in Group I.

Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku gave the visitors the lead in Glasgow in only the ninth minute with his Belgian record-extending 49th international goal. Defenders Thomas Vermaelen and Toby Alderweireld ended the game as a contest with less than 32 minutes on the clock.

 City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who had assisted each of the first three goals, completed the scoring himself with eight minutes remaining.

Russia remain in pole position to progress from Group I with Belgium, after Mario Fernandes’ 89th-minute winner sealed a 1-0 win over Kazakhstan which moved Stanislav Cherchesov’s men eight points ahead of their beaten opponents.

Dutch double for Babel

The Netherlands backed up their stunning 4-2 win over Germany in Hamburg last Friday by thrashing Estonia in Tallinn, as Ryan Babel scored his maiden international double. Memphis Depay, making his 50th Netherlands appearance, grabbed the third goal, with Liverpool’s Georginio Wijnaldum also finding the net.

Ronald Koeman’s side still have work to do to reach a first major finals since making the 2014 World Cup semifinals, though, as they trail second-placed Northern Ireland by three points in Group C, albeit with a game in hand. The Euro 1988 winners next host the Northern Irish on October 10 in a crucial encounter.

Germany lead the group standings after edging to a nervy 2-0 victory in Belfast.

Marcel Halstenberg’s brilliant volley broke the deadlock shortly after half-time in a tense encounter, and Serge Gnabry gave Joachim Loew’s men breathing space in injury-time.

Croatia stumble

Earlier on Saturday, Croatia suffered a setback in their qualifying campaign as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Azerbaijan in Baku.

The 2018 World Cup runners-up took an early lead through a Luka Modric penalty, but the hosts hit back with Tamkin Khalilzade’s brilliant 72nd-minute equaliser to claim their first point in Group E.

Leaders Croatia are only ahead of third-placed Hungary, who they host on October 10, by one point, with Slovakia second on head-to-head record after winning 2-1 in Budapest.

Wales are three points further back, but having played a game fewer. — AFP

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Barty first to qualify for WTA Finals 

Shenzhen: World No. 1 Ashleigh Barty has become the first player to qualify for the season-ending WTA Finals in Shenzhen, the WTA Tour has said. The 23-year-old, who won her maiden Grand Slam title at the French Open this year, will be making her singles debut in the October 27-November 3 Finals, which offer $14 million in prize money. reuters

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