England rally to down Italy, qualify for Euro 2024

England players celebrate after the match. Photo: Action Images//Andrew Couldridge via Reuters

Classy England beat Italy 3-1 at Wembley to became the latest country to book a berth at next year’s European Championship after Tuesday’s round of qualifiers but Hungary’s hopes were held up by a draw away to Lithuania.

England and Hungary were the only teams with the opportunity on Tuesday to secure their places at the finals in Germany next June with Gareth Southgate's side coming from behind to beat the European champions and make sure of top spot in Group C.

Defeat for Italy, who led through Gianluca Scamacca before England overtook them with two goals from their all-time record scorer Harry Kane – the first a penalty -- and one from Marcus Rashford, leaves the visitors in a precarious third place.

Ukraine moved into second spot as they beat Malta 3-1 away after Paul Mbong had put the hosts ahead in the 12th minute. An own goal and then a penalty had Ukraine ahead by half-time and they added a third near the end from Mykhailo Mudryk.

Ukraine conclude their qualifying campaign next month with a home game against Italy that will have to be played at a neutral venue because of the conflict with Russia.

Hungary would have qualified had they won in Lithuania, who they had beaten five times in six previous meetings, but went two goals down in Kaunas before fighting back to draw 2-2.

 Lithuania hold Hungary
Hungary's Attila Szalai, left, in action with Lithuania's Vykintas Slivka. Photo: Reuters/Ints Kalnins

Lithuania, who had won only one game in Group G, led at the break with goals from Fedor Cernych and Pijus Sirvys but Hungary fought back through captain Dominik Szoboszlai’s 67th minute penalty and a Barnabas Varga header eight minutes from time.

Hungary pressed for a winner but must now wait until next month to claim a place at Euro 2024. They lead by one point after second-placed Serbia beat neighbours Montenegro 3-1 in Belgrade on the back of a double from Aleksandar Mitrovic.

Denmark and Slovenia were both away winners in Group H to move to the cusp of qualification.

The Danes had a scare in San Marino where the tiny republic scored their first goal of the campaign but the visitors still won 2-1, while Slovenia were 1-0 victors over Northern Ireland in Belfast, where Adam Cerin netted after five minutes.

The results left Kazakhstan with slim hopes of automatic qualification despite upsetting Finland 2-1 away in Tuesday’s early match as Bakhtiyar Zaynutdinov scored twice, the first from the spot in the 77th and then an 89th minute winner.

France secured a convincing 4-1 victory over Scotland in a friendly in Lille, where the kick-off was delayed by 10 minutes to allow fans time to get safely into the ground, given the enhanced security measures in place.

Both teams had already secured their places in the Euro 2024 finals and Scotland led briefly with a goal by Billy Gilmour after 11 minutes, but Benjamin Pavard equalised five minutes later and scored a brace before half-time.

Kylian Mbappe converted a penalty for France just before the break, after Liam Cooper was penalised for a shirt tug on Olivier Giroud and Kingsley Coman completed the scoring when he netted a rebound in the 70th minute.

Already booked for the finals are Germany (hosts), Austria, Belgium, France, Portugal, Scotland, Spain, England and Turkey.

The final round of group qualifiers are next month and the tournament will be held from June 14-July 14.

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