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Early Euro qualifiers: Belgium, Netherlands, Russia all win

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In the early slate of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers, there were little surprises as Belgium, Russia, Hungary, the Netherlands, and Scotland all found the winner’s column.

Liverpool midfielder Giorginio Wijnaldum bagged a first-half brace, including an absolute rocket, as the Netherlands held on for a 2-1 win over Belarus. BATE Borisov midfielder Stanislav Dragun grabbed one back for Belarus soon after halftime, but the visitors held on in Minsk.

[ WATCH: Wijnaldum scores ripper for Netherlands ]

Virgil Van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt partnered in defense yet again, as they have for 17 of the last 19 Netherlands games, conceding just 17 goals in those 17 matches. Thanks in part to that stellar partnership, Jasper Cillessen had little to do, with Dragun’s headed goal the only shot on target for Belarus in the match, while the Netherlands put seven of their 21 shots on frame.

Michy Batshuayi and Thomas Meunier both found the back of the net as Belgium topped Kazakhstan 2-0 in Astana to remain perfect in qualifying action and keep pace with Russia in Group I. Batshuayi was filling in for an injured Romelu Lukaku, and he latched onto a low back-post cross from Dennis Praet for the opener 21 minutes in. Meunier’s 53rd minute poke came off an absolutely stunning long delivery from Eden Hazard to the far post placed perfectly over the head of the defender. Belgium held 66% possession throughout the match, and while they were only able to put three shots on target, they scored on two of them and held the hosts to just one. Belgium has now scored 30 goals in Euro qualification while conceding just one.

Russia also continued to surge ahead in Group I play one game back of Belgium with a 5-0 demolition of Cyprus in Nicosia. Denis Cheryshev struck nine minutes in to put Russia ahead as he pilfered the ball off the Cyprus back line. The hosts lost Standard Liege defender Konstantinos Laifis to a straight red card, and the rest was elementary. Magomed Ozdoev, Artem Dzyuba, and Aleksandr Golovin all found the back of the net before Cheryshev finished it off with his second of the game in stoppage time. Russia and Belgium have both qualified for the finals, with Russia sitting in second three points behind the perfect group leaders.

Hungary scored 10 minutes in and hung on for a 1-0 victory at home over Azerbaijan. 30-year-old Mihaly Korhut struck a long-distance ripper from well outside the box that appeared to catch goalkeeper Emil Balayev off guard, and the Hungary defense did the rest. RB Leipzig captain Willi Orban and Sporting Kansas City defender Botond Barath held Azerbaijan to just four total shots, including two on target. Meanwhile, despite splitting the possession nearly halfway, Hungary ripped off 23 shots, putting six on target.

Scotland hammered San Marino at home 6-0 behind a first-half hat-trick from Aston Villa midfielder John McGinn. In the pouring rain in Glasgow, McGinn opened the scoring 12 minutes in for his second international goal on a simple cutback and shot from Ryan Christie which clipped McGinn on its way inside the far post. He hit for a second just before the half-hour mark as he poked home a cross by Scott McTominay that was saved into no-man’s land by a diving San Marino goalkeeper Aldo Junior Simoncini. The third featured the highest degree of difficulty as a set-piece delivery into the box was headed by Stuart Findlay towards the far post and McGinn ripped it home on the doorstep under pressure. Lawrence Shankland, Findlay, and Stuart Armstrong finished off the scoreline in the second half, although Scotland has still long been eliminated from qualification in the top-heavy Group I.

Euro 2020 qualifying roundup: Belgium qualifies

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Belgium became the first national team to qualify for the 2020 European Championships and boy did the Red Devils do it in style.

Belgium routed lowly San Marino, 9-0 at the Stade Roi Baudouin in Brussels to ensure qualification. Romelu Lukaku scored a brace and assisted on another as Belgium was able to spread the goals around.

[READ: Tactical Analysis – How to Beat Man City]

Seven different players scored for Belgium, plus an own goal from San Marino’s Cristian Brolli. Even Eden Hazard, who set up a pair of goals, didn’t score himself before earning an early break in the 63rd minute.

Nacer Chadli, Tottenham’s Toby Alderweireld, Leicester City’s Youri Tielemans, Crystal Palace’s Christian Benteke, Yari Verschaeren, and Timothy Castagne all scored along with Lukaku.

Russia thrash Scotland

In what’s becoming the norm, Scotland again succumbed to a crushing defeat. This time it was to Russia, which beat Scotland, 4-0, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The Scotland centerback pairing of Liam Palmer and Charlie Mulgrew couldn’t deal with big Russian striker Artem Dzyuba, who finished with a brace. Magomed Ozdoev and Aleksandr Golovin both scored as well to put Scotland away.

Here’s a look at the rest of Thursday’s qualifying action.

Thursday’s EURO 2020 qualifying results

Group C

Belarus 0-0 Estonia

Netherlands 3-1 Northern Ireland

Group E

Croatia 3-0 Hungary

Slovakia 1-1 Wales

Group G

Austria 3-1 Israel

Latvia 0-3 Poland

North Macedonia 2-1 Slovenia

Group I

Kazakhstan 1-2 Cyprus

Belgium 9-0 San Marino

Russia 4-0 Scotland

De Bruyne hopes for Kompany reunion

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Kevin De Bruyne hopes to link up with Vincent Kompany once again when his days at Manchester City are up.

De Bruyne, 28, has been in sensational form for club and country early in the season and has been the standout player in the Premier League so far.

Speaking ahead of Kompany’s testimonial game at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday the Belgian wizard told the Sun that he would love to play for his former teammate, who is now the player-manager of Anderlecht.

“I hope his [Kompany’s] career will be just as amazing at Anderlecht as it was at City. I’ve told him to keep a place in his team for me in a year, or seven, when I’m finished here,” De Bruyne said. “If he does do that for me I will already have my next destination lined up; my next job. I will definitely miss him being around City.”

Kompany is a legendary figure at City and in Belgium, but his time in charge of Anderlecht in a player-manager role hasn’t started well.

The Brussels club have lost three of their opening six matches in the league, but they beat top of the table Standard Liege 1-0 before the international break. Kompany has a very young squad to work with and is trying to develop a totally new playing identity, all while he’s still playing as a center back.

Kompany’s pull is clear and Anderlecht will definitely want him around for as long as possible if the likes of De Bruyne want to join his project. Quite how they’d be able to afford KDB wages is another matter altogether, but the fact he wants to do it one day shows how much respect and love he has for Kompany.

The latter was instrumental in De Bruyne joining City, and we all know how well that has worked out for both parties over the past few seasons.

After winning back-to-back Premier League titles together at City, De Bruyne and Kompany seem destined to stay inextricably linked.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Germany, Netherlands seize control of Group C

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A roundup of all of Monday’s action in qualification for the 2020 European Championship…

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up against Uruguay? ]

Northern Ireland 0-2 Germany

Germany bounced back from its home defeat to the Netherlands on Friday and now sits atop Group C. Northern Ireland held the top spot in the group from the outset of qualifying, but the Germans finally drew level on games played (5) on Monday and subsequently leapfrogged them to reach the summit (12 points each).

Marcel Halstenberg (RB Leipzig) put Germany ahead in the 48th minute with a stunning side-volley from a seemingly impossible angle, followed by Serge Gnabry‘s deft five-hole finish to beat Bailey Peacock-Farrell in the 92nd.

Estonia 0-4 Netherlands

The Ryan Babel Renaissance rumbles on, with the 32-year-old bagging a brace in the Netherland’s 4-0 thrashing of Estonia. Since returning to the Dutch side in 2017, Babel has scored five goals after going nearly a decade without an international goal (May 2008 to November 2017).

The former Liverpool (now Galatasaray) winger got the first two goals on Monday, in the 17th and 48th minutes. Memphis Depay put the game to bed in the 76th, followed by the exclamation point from Georginio Wijnaldum in the 87th.

The Dutch (9 points) sit third in Group C three points back of both Germany and Northern Ireland (with a game in hand on each) after winning twice during this international window. Prior to this round of games, they were one or two bad results from failing to qualify for a third straight major tournament.

Scotland 0-4 Belgium

Belgium (18 points) now sits just one win from booking its place at EURO 2020, thanks to a 4-0 rout in Scotland. Having conceded just one goal (to second-place Russia) in their six games thus far, Roberto Martinez’s side has asserted itself as the class of Group I.

Romelu Lukaku made it 1-0 in the 9th minute, followed by defenders Thomas Vermaelen in the 24th and Toby Aldeweireld in the 32nd, and Kevin De Bruyne in the 82nd.

Eden Hazard missed out on this round of international fixtures due to the thigh injury which has prevented him from making his Real Madrid debut.

Elsewhere in EURO 2020 qualifying

Group E

Hungary 1-2 Slovakia
Azerbaijan 1-1 Croatia

Group G

Poland 0-0 Austria
Slovenia 3-2 Israel
Latvia 0-2 North Macedonia

Group I

Russia ____ Kazakhstan
San Marino ___ Cyprus

Kompany backs Lukaku, hits out at “lack of diversity” in board rooms

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Vincent Kompany is sticking up for his Belgian teammate after Romelu Lukaku was racially abused this weekend in Italy.

New Inter Milan striker Lukaku was subject to monkey chants, and he was understandably angered by them.

[ MORE: How will USMNT line up v. Mexico? ]

The shocking answer from Inter fans was that (paraphrasing here) he shouldn’t consider the chants racist because they are just aimed to rile people up.

Kompany is now player-manager at Anderlecht, and the ex-Manchester City star says we shouldn’t expect major changes in how racism is eradicated from football until there are more people in positions of power who’ve had to deal with racism in their lives.

“You are dealing with a crowd of people and decision-makers who are telling him how he should think and feel about this when you have no decision-makers who are remotely in touch with what he has experienced in his life.

“That’s the real issue, if you go through the boards at UEFA or FIFA, the Italian League or the English League there is a real lack of diversity. If you don’t have diversity in places of power like boardrooms then you can’t have the right decisions in terms of sanctions – it’s a simple as that.”

There’s a lot to that. Sure, academically anyone can appreciate the painful effects of racism, but it’s impossible to truly grasp it without having a representative voice in places of power.

Kompany has long been one of the wiser voices in world football. Frankly, he seems like a future UEFA or FIFA board member.