Portugal registered their largest-ever win in a competitive match without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was suspended due to yellow cards in previous Group J matches in European Championship qualifying. The team hammered Luxembourg 9-0 in the Algarve.
In Ronaldo’s absence, Goncalo Ramos, Goncalo Inacio, and Diogo Jota all found the net twice, with Ricardo Horta, Bruno Fernandes, and Joao Felix also adding their names to the scoresheet. CR7 had a missed opportunity to increase his international goal tally of 123, but Portugal, dominating Group J with six consecutive wins, remain in control. No other team in the qualifying has achieved as many victories.
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Portugal now lead Slovakia by five points, and they also have an eight-point advantage over Luxembourg. The top two teams in each group secure automatic qualification.
Ramos, filling in for Ronaldo, proved himself once again by scoring two of the team’s first three goals. He notably did this during last year’s World Cup in Qatar when Ronaldo was benched for the round of 16 match against Switzerland by then-coach Fernando Santos. Ramos responded with a hat trick in that game, making a significant impact on the soccer world.
Following a move from Benfica to Paris Saint-Germain, he might be Portugal’s long-term replacement for Ronaldo, who currently plays in Saudi Arabia. Portugal’s national team appears to be on a path to Euro 2024. It’s worth noting that Germany’s 13-0 victory over San Marino in 2006 remains the largest-ever win in European Championship qualifying.
In other Group J matches, Slovakia defeated Liechtenstein 3-0, and Iceland secured a 1-0 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Meanwhile, Andrej Kramaric’s early goal secured Croatia three points, lifting the World Cup semifinalists into first place in Group D. A 13th-minute corner from Luka Modric deflected off an Armenia player and reached Kramaric, who redirected the ball into the net. The goal was reviewed for offside, but it appeared that Croatian defender Josko Gvardiol also got a touch on the ball.
After beginning Group D with a disappointing 1-1 draw against Wales, Croatia have now won three consecutive matches and moved ahead of Turkey on goal difference, despite playing one game less.
Wales won 2-0 in Latvia, courtesy of goals by Aaron Ramsey and David Brooks, joining Armenia with seven points, trailing Croatia and Turkey by three points. The result was a relief for Wales coach Robert Page, who had been under increasing pressure following back-to-back defeats against Armenia and Turkey in the group.