World champions Spain thump Belgium in Euro 2025 qualifiers

World champions Spain thump Belgium in Euro 2025 qualifiers

April 5, 2024 at 9:44 PM
Salma Paralluelo scored a hat-trick as Spain ran out 7-0 winners in Belgium
Salma Paralluelo scored a hat-trick as Spain ran out 7-0 winners in Belgium. Photo: JOHN THYS / AFP
Source: AFP

A Salma Paralluelo hat-trick inspired Spain to a 7-0 win in Belgium on Friday in the opening fixture of their Euro 2025 qualifying campaign, while Marie-Antoinette Katoto gave France a narrow home win over Ireland.

Paralluelo goals bookended a Jenni Hermoso strike in a clinical start by the Spanish, before the Barcelona attacker scored her third two minutes after the break and Esther Gonzalez and Sheila Garcia then completed the rout.

The victory comes at a difficult moment for the Spanish football federation (RFEF) after disgraced ex-president Luis Rubiales, who was forced to step down last September after forcibly kissing Hermoso following Spain's triumph in the World Cup final in August, was briefly arrested on Wednesday in connection with an alleged graft scandal at the federation.

The arrest came two weeks after investigators searched 11 locations, including the RFEF's Madrid headquarters and Rubiales' house in the southern city of Granada, as part of a probe into alleged corruption and other crimes.

In Leuven in Belgium, Paralluelo broke the deadlock with a precise finish from a corner in the eighth minute and Hermoso doubled the lead eight minutes later.

After 30 minutes, former Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas set Paralluelo up with a delightful backheel and the 20-year-old turned and finished assuredly inside the box.

The hat-trick came soon after the interval when Paralluelo swept home Ona Batlle's cross from inside the six-yard box.

Gonzalez netted a fourth for Spain on 64 minutes, before Garcia and Gonzalez struck again in the last five minutes to complete an emphatic away win.

Earlier in Group 2 Denmark won 3-1 in the Czech Republic 3-1, thanks to an early Amalie Vangsgaard strike and two goals in four second-half minutes from Stine Ballisager and Josefine Hasbo.

Katoto decisive for France

Olympic hosts France beat the Republic of Ireland 1-0 in Metz. Herve Renard's side dominated the visitors but lacked incision in a combative encounter in Group 3.

Marie-Antoinette Katoto scores for France against the Republic of Ireland
Marie-Antoinette Katoto scores for France against the Republic of Ireland. Photo: FRANCK FIFE / AFP
Source: AFP

Paris Saint-Germain forward Katoto netted in the sixth minute to give the Euro 2022 semi-finalists a winning start to their campaign.

The 25-year-old was quickest to react to Maelle Lakrar's pass across goal and tapped the ball over the line from one yard out.

France were unable to break down the stubborn Irish defence a second time but were never troubled.

In the same group,England drew 1-1 with Sweden at Wembley. Alessia Russo's opener midway through the first half was cancelled out by a 64th-minute Fridolina Rolfo header.

The breakthrough came for the reigning European champions in the 24th minute from Russo's close-range stooping header after Lauren James picked out the Arsenal forward.

Soon after the hour, Rolfo levelled when she headed in Rosa Kafaji's cross at the back post.

Moments later, Stina Blackstenius raced clear but her left-footed finish rolled wide of Mary Earps' post.

Elsewhere in League A, Norway beat Finland 4-0 at home in Group 1 while Italy beat Euro 2017 winners Netherlands 2-0 in San Vito.

Roma forward Valentina Giacinti opened the scoring on four minutes with a clinical right-footed finish, before Agnese Bonfantini turned in Michela Cambiaghi's cross to secure the three points just before the hour.

Iceland won 3-0 at home against Poland and Germany came from two down to win 3-2 in Austria.

In League B, Wales made a flying start to their campaign with a 4-0 home victory over Croatia and Scotland were held to a goalless draw in Serbia.

Montenegro beat Andorra 6-1 in Podgorica and Luxembourg, 117th-ranked in the world, came from behind to win 2-1 at home to Albania in League C.

AFP photo