England trounced Bulgaria 0-6 in Sofia to strengthen their chances of entry into the 2020 edition of the European Cup on Monday night. In a one-sided match at the Bulgarian capital that was punctured by racist chants from a section of the stands at the Vasil Levski National Stadium, a brace each from Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling and goals from Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford helped the visiting Three Lions complete the rout of the bottom-placed Bulgarians. The English were prevented from making a clean sweep of all their six outings in the Group A cluster by a shock defeat at the hands of Czech Republic earlier in Prague when they went down to the hosts 1-2. But with 20 points from 6 games and two more in hand, they have little to complain.
Ukraine are the surprise entrants into Europe’s top tournament. The East Europeans stunned 2016 Euro champions Portugal 2-1 in Kiev to move emphatically to the top of Group B with 19 points from their 7 games. Portugal are a clear 8 points behind Ukraine, but with matches against minions Luxembourg and Lithuania left, they would fancy their chances to qualify. Portugal’s lone goal in their Ukraine defeat came from Cristiano Ronaldo who scored his 700th career goal when he converted a 72nd-minute penalty.
Belgium became the first team to qualify for the 2020 Euros when they beat Kazakhstan 0-2 in faraway Astana with goals coming from Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier. The Belgians were relentless and ruthless in their march to the Euros, winning all their 8 Group games so far and accumulating 24 points along the way. Another qualifier for Europe’s major tourney from the same Group I are Russia who won all their games excepting for a solitary defeat to Belgium.
Poland became one more East European entrant when they reached the top of Group G with 19 points after meting out a 2-0 defeat to North Macedonia. Austria, from the same Group, brightened their chances immensely when they beat Slovenia 0-1 away in Ljubljana and moved to 16 points from their 8 games.
Italy secured their place in the Euro 2020 finals with a 2-0 win over Greece in Group J in Rome. Chelsea’s Jorginho put Italy ahead in the 63rd minute from a penalty kick after Greek mid-fielder Andreas Bouchalakis handled the ball inside the box and Federico Bernardeschi made it 2-0 with 12 minutes for the final whistle to go.
With 168 internationals under his belt, Sergio Ramos became Europe’s most capped male outfield player as Spain edged closer to Euro 2020 qualification with a 1-1 draw in Norway. Spain almost settled the issue of their entry in Oslo on Saturday night with the help of Saul Niguez’s 47th minute goal but a penalty awarded to the hosts in injury time cancelled out the Atletico Madrid midfielder’s effort, making the one-time World and European champions wait for their qualification. The Iberians are on 19 points from their 8 outings and top the Group F, a clear 5 points ahead of 2nd placed Sweden whom they play on Tuesday night away in Stockholm.
Like England and Portugal, heavyweights Netherlands, France, Germany and Croatia who all lead their respective Groups, will all have to wait for the results of the next round of qualification matches to be played in November.