Romelu Lukaku scored four times in 20 first-half minutes as Belgium thrashed 10-man Azerbaijan 5-0 in Euro 2024 qualifying.

Lukaku headed the opener from Jeremy Doku’s cross before Eddy Pascual was shown a second yellow card for a foul on the Roma striker, who is on loan from Chelsea.

The 30-year-old completed his hat-trick by the half-hour mark and grabbed his fourth after 37 minutes before being substituted at half-time. Arsenal forward Leandro Trossard completed the rout late on.

Lukaku’s total of 14 goals is a record for a European Championship qualifying campaign, beating the mark of 13 set by Northern Ireland’s David Healy in 2008 and equalled by Poland’s Robert Lewandowski in 2016.

Belgium had already booked their place at next year’s tournament and the win saw them finish top of Group F ahead of Austria.

Sweden, who could not qualify, beat Estonia 2-0 in the group’s other fixture.

Serbia qualified for Euro 2024 with a 2-2 draw with Bulgaria in Group G, where group winners Hungary beat Montenegro 3-1 thanks to a brace from Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai.

Serbia only needed a point or for Montenegro not to beat Hungary to secure their berth in Germany, but that looked a distinct possibility when they trailed 2-1 and Montenegro led 1-0 in Budapest.

However, Serbia’s Srdan Babic equalised in the 82nd minute and Szoboszlai scored twice in the space of two minutes in the second half to turn Hungary’s game around.

Scotland concluded their successful campaign with an action-packed 3-3 draw with Norway at Hampden Park.

Steve Clarke’s men twice came from behind before Stuart Armstrong gave the home side the lead just before the hour mark, but Norway substitute Mohamed Elyounoussi levelled in the 86th minute.

Group A winners Spain beat Georgia 3-1 in Valladolid.

Portugal ended their qualifying campaign with a 10th straight win as goals from Bruno Fernandes and Ricardo Horta gave them a 2-0 victory over Iceland.

Group J runners-up Slovakia enjoyed a 2-1 win over 10-man Bosnia and Herzegovina, who will join Luxembourg in the play-offs.

Spain concluded their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign with a 3-1 win against Georgia.

They had already qualified for next year’s tournament in Germany prior to the game, but a frenetic opening 10 minutes saw their early lead through Robin Le Normand cancelled out by Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.

The hosts were then forced into an early substitution when Gavi was forced off the field with an injury, but were able to wrap up victory when Ferran Torres headed them in front 10 minutes into the second half before Luka Lochoshvili scored an own goal.

The result means Spain finish top of Group A with seven wins under their belts, while Georgia finish fourth.

The hosts took the lead just four minutes in when Torres curled a free-kick into the box, going as far as Le Normand who nodded the ball home at the back post.

They had another great chance when Dani Carvajal broke down the right to find Gavi in the middle and the Barcelona midfielder forced a great save from Giorgi Mamardashvili, who palmed the ball away from the top corner.

Georgia brought themselves back into the game in the 10th minute when Giorgi Chakvetadze broke through and threaded a fantastic ball to Kvaratskhelia, who held off two defenders to roll the ball past Unai Simon’s outstretched leg and into the net.

Spain continued to lurk around the Georgian box and came close in the 22nd minute as Mamardashvili was forced to make a superb save at his left post from Fabian Ruiz’s in-swinging free-kick.

However, they were handed a major blow moments later though as Gavi limped off the pitch with injury and were quickly forced to clear the danger from a Georgian corner.

Another brilliant Spanish chance came in the 32nd minute when Torres’ curling low ball from the right found Alvaro Morata in the six-yard box and the Atletico Madrid forward fired first-time, but Mamardashvili denied him with a fine block.

Spain were on the attack early in the second half when Rodri fired straight at goal and they threatened again as Torres picked out the Manchester City midfielder, but Mamardashvili was able to claw the powerful header away.

They eventually earned their reward in the 55th minute when Jose Luis Gaya chipped the ball to Torres in the middle of the box, with his header bouncing past Mamardashvili into the right corner and he celebrated holding up Gavi’s shirt.

Some great play down the left saw Gaya threaten with another dangerous cross, but Morata’s resulting header was skewed wide and moments later Spain’s lead was extended when Lochoshvili headed Lamine Yamal’s cross into his own net in the 72nd minute.

Georgia were on the attack and Kvaratskhelia had a shot blocked by the Spanish defence and the hosts had another chance when Oihan Sancet volleyed over the crossbar.

The visitors had a late chance to earn a consolation at the death, but Giorgi Kochorashvili’s free-kick flew wide.

Gareth Southgate says “performance is the priority” in North Macedonia as already-qualified England look to make up for winning with a whimper against minnows Malta.

The Euro 2020 runners-up sealed their place at next summer’s edition with two matches to spare and were below par in Friday’s qualifier.

England disappointed a packed Wembley crowd by limping to a 2-0 victory over Malta, leading the manager to suggest his players had subconsciously taken their foot off the gas.

Southgate did not castigate those that have done so well for him over the years, but he is demanding a vastly-improved display in North Macedonia as they bring the curtain down on 2023.

“Performance is the priority,” Southgate said.

“We’ve set a standard. We didn’t reach that standard on Friday. We have to get back to what we’re good at. There’s always a chance within that to have a look at a couple of things that we’d like to see as well.

“But the biggest thing is making sure we hit the level of performance that we’ve set ourselves.”

England’s final match of the year is also set to be their last on foreign soil until the Euros get under way in Germany.

A sold-out Tose Proeski Arena awaits despite the Macedonians’ qualification hopes already having gone up in smoke, with revenge the main focus on Monday.

Few saw June’s 7-0 Old Trafford annihilation at Old Trafford coming and Blagoja Milevski’s men are looking to get a famous result having drawn at home to reigning European champions Italy since then.

“We weren’t at the level of performance that we want on Friday, so all focus on tomorrow’s game,” said Southgate, whose side have so far gone unbeaten this year.

“We play a team who, although they can’t qualify, have tremendous pride and they’ll be wounded by what happened in Manchester.

“We have to be ready for a really good atmosphere. Full crowd, full stadium. We’ve had a calendar year where we’ve been very good, so we want to finish well.”

England’s final camp of the year has been disrupted by absentees.

Five players withdrew from the original squad through injury and two more departed the squad before they flew out to the Balkans.

The Football Association announced Kieran Trippier had gone home due to a personal issue, while injury meant Jarrod Bowen left the camp on Sunday.

“Unfortunately, Jarrod picked up an injury,” Southgate said. “I think he felt it a little bit yesterday and then again at the end of training today.

“We didn’t really have enough time to assess it fully and make a really accurate decision before the game, so we felt better to leave him in England so that he can get it properly assessed.

“I don’t think it’s got to be anything serious, but we just didn’t have enough time and we wouldn’t take a risk in that situation.”

Bowen was in line for a substantial role for rotated England on Monday, so too Trippier.

The versatile Newcastle full-back’s withdrawal underlines the dearth of options at left-back in the absence of injured Luke Shaw and Ben Chilwell.

“We need to adapt,” Southgate said. “We’ve got a couple of different options and we’re comfortable with it. We can find a good solution to the issue.

“We haven’t got somebody that is playing there regularly, but we’ve adapted to lots of situations over the last few years and we’re comfortable with doing that again tomorrow.”

Asked about the options and formation switch, he added: “We probably have done it a little bit on personnel going back a few years.

“So, yeah, that is an option. We’ve obviously got players that have played as wing-backs. We can adjust. We’ve got Fik (Fikayo Tomori), of course, who did it the other day, Rico Lewis, Marc Guehi can play across there.

“He’s done that for us in a game before so it’s just making sure that everybody’s aware of their job. It changes the way maybe you build up patterns and those sorts of things, but we’re comfortable with the situation we’ve got.”

Declan Rice has called on England to end an unbeaten 2023 with a “bang” by winning their final Euro 2024 qualifier away to North Macedonia.

England have not suffered defeat since their World Cup quarter-final exit at the hands of France last December and sealed their spot at next summer’s finals with two games to spare.

Rice’s Arsenal team-mate Bukayo Saka hit a hat-trick in a 7-0 thrashing of North Macedonia in the reverse fixture at Old Trafford in June.

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After a drab 2-0 win over Malta on Friday, Rice is keen for England to put in a better showing to bring the curtain down on a strong calendar year.

“I think especially the other night after Malta there is just a bit of pride in ourselves that we need to raise our level,” the Arsenal midfielder said.

“We need to put out a statement and it would be a good way to end the year. We are currently unbeaten since the World Cup so it is down to us to go out tomorrow night, put on a performance.

“You need to be mentally prepared, have the right mentality and be ready for a hostile environment and make sure we go out of this year with a bang. We will be ready for whatever they throw at us.”

Rice will collect his 48th cap in Monday’s game and the former West Ham captain admits he was “gutted” that a controversial VAR call cost him a fourth England goal in the Malta win.

Just moments after Harry Kane had doubled the lead, Rice charged forward and drove home a fine finish that was ultimately ruled out for offside against Kane.

“To be honest with you, going back to the other night I was gutted,” he said.

“When I picked the ball up and drove through and bent one into the far corner, I was buzzing because I don’t really score goals like that often.

“When it was chalked off I was gutted, but it was one of those where I didn’t want to get into something with the ref, get a silly yellow card. The game was won at 2-0 so it is one of those you have to take on the chin.

“Hopefully I can score one of those again, maybe tomorrow night, so we will have to wait and see.”

Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta has landed a Football Association charge for his stinging criticism of VAR following the recent Premier League defeat at Newcastle – labelling the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s winning goal to stand as both “embarrassing” and a “disgrace”.

“It is one of those things, you are going to get decisions that go your way and those that don’t go your way,” Rice said on VAR.

“At the minute it is a bit up in the air because some decisions being made are the wrong decisions, some are right, but we are just there to play football and it is down to the authorities to decide – the people at Stockley Park and the referees.”

West Ham forward Jarrod Bowen has joined Kieran Trippier in withdrawing from the England squad ahead of their Euro 2024 qualifier in North Macedonia.

Bowen suffered a knee injury in training and remained in England when the rest of the squad flew to Macedonia on Sunday.

England boss Gareth Southgate told a press conference: “Unfortunately Jarrod picked up an injury, I think he felt it a little bit yesterday and again at the end of training today.

“We didn’t really have enough time to assess it fully and make a really accurate decision before the game so we felt better to leave him in England so that he can get it properly assessed.

“I don’t think it’s going to be anything serious but we just didn’t have enough time and we wouldn’t take a risk in that situation.”

Bowen’s departure follows that of defender Trippier, who left the England camp earlier on Sunday due to a personal matter.

England end their Euro 2024 qualification campaign and 2023 fixture calendar in Skopje on Monday night, when they will be unable to call upon Newcastle full-back Trippier.

The England account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said: “@trippier2 has departed the #ThreeLions camp, owing to a personal matter and will not travel to North Macedonia.”

Southgate’s side secured progress to next summer’s finals with two games to spare and Friday’s forgettable 2-0 win against Malta all but assured their spot among the top seeds in the December 2 draw.

Manchester City came from a goal behind to beat Women’s Super League rivals Manchester United 3-1 at Old Trafford.

The Red Devils were awarded a penalty in the 20th minute as Alex Greenwood handled inside the area, with Katie Zelem slotting home to put them a goal up.

City were not behind for long and turned the game on its head with two goals inside a minute as Jill Roord slotted home the equaliser before Lauren Hemp curled in superb fashion from outside the area to make it 2-1.

The visitors ensured the three points as Khadija Shaw closed down a back-pass to Mary Earps, with the goalkeeper’s clearance bouncing off Shaw and going into the net to rubber-stamp the triumph.

Despite Laia Aleixandri’s second bookable offence for a foul on Lucia Garcia, City held on to move above United in the WSL.

Elsewhere, Arsenal secured their sixth win in all competitions with a convincing 3-0 victory over Brighton thanks to goals from Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Foord and Frida Maanum.

Bristol City twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with fellow strugglers Everton at Walton Hall Park while Tottenham’s unbeaten run continued with a 1-1 draw against Leicester.

Rachel Daly scored in stoppage time to help secure Aston Villa their second win of the season with a 3-2 victory over West Ham.

Arsenal made it five consecutive wins in the Women’s Premier League and six in all competitions with a convincing 3-0 victory over Brighton.

Stina Blackstenius opened the scoring in the 12th minute with a shot into the top left-hand corner of the net before Caitlin Foord doubled their advantage with 10 minutes to go in front of a record crowd of 4,921 at a sold-out Broadfield Stadium.

Frida Maanum sealed the three points in stoppage time with her first goal of the season after being teed up by Cloe Lacasse, leaving the second-placed Gunners three points behind leaders Chelsea in the table.

Bristol City twice came from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with fellow strugglers Everton at Walton Hall Park.

Martina Piemonte put the hosts in front just five minutes into the contest but Amy Rodgers slammed home from inside the area just before the interval to bring the scores level.

Everton retook the lead in the 57th minute courtesy of Megan Finnigan and looked on course for only their second win of the WSL season when Amalie Thestrup dinked home from close range with eight minutes remaining to earn rock-bottom City a share of the spoils.

Tottenham extended their unbeaten run to six matches with a 1-1 draw against Leicester at the King Power Stadium.

Leicester went ahead in the 18th minute when Janice Cayman received a pass from Hannah Cain before firing home but were pegged back when Celin Bizet latched onto a through ball and finished coolly.

Rachel Daly scored a brilliant stoppage-time winner as Aston Villa came out on top in a five-goal thriller to beat West Ham 3-2 and double their points tally for the campaign.

Viviane Asseyi’s penalty put West Ham a goal to the good but Villa turned the game on its head through Anna Patten and Adriana Leon.

West Ham thought they had snatched a point when Lisa Evans drilled home from outside the area with 10 minutes to go.

But, the decisive moment came two minutes into added time when England star Daly smashed into the top corner to snatch all three points for Villa.

Northern Ireland wrap up their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign when Denmark visit Windsor Park on Monday night.

Here the PA news agency looks at the key talking points ahead of the game.

It’s (almost) over

The good news is that this is the last of Northern Ireland’s Group H fixtures. A campaign which began with such optimism unravelled quickly in the first few games and has never recovered, with seven defeats in nine causing Northern Ireland’s world ranking to drop from 59th to 75th.

Michael O’Neill was clear ahead of the game that it was not as simple as drawing a line and moving on because lessons must be learned, but it will still be welcome to change the narrative of a campaign in which any realistic hope of reaching next year’s finals was gone in by the summer.

Can they end on a high note?

O’Neill said in Finland last week that he and his players would need to look at themselves if they could not take something from at least one of their fixtures against someone other than San Marino, but a 4-0 hiding in Helsinki leaves this match as the final opportunity.

Playing a side ranked 19th in the world and the top seeds in the group is hardly ideal in those circumstances, but Northern Ireland were a tight offside decision away from scoring a late equaliser when they lost 1-0 in Copenhagen in June, so they will take some confidence from that.


Shea Charles returns from suspension and Paul Smyth is back in the squad following the hamstring injury which prevented him from travelling to Finland.

O’Neill indicated the absence of both players in Helsinki had limited his options not only in terms of personnel but also the shape of his team so their return will be welcome.

O’Neill admitted he needed to consider whether or not he had fielded too many young players at the same time, leaning too heavily on inexperienced players, so any reinforcements will be welcome. However, in keeping with the campaign as a whole there is a fresh injury worry with Daniel Ballard a doubt due to a hamstring problem.

Denmark are through

Denmark’s 2-1 win over Slovenia on Friday night booked their ticket to Euro 2024, meaning neither side has anything too much riding on Monday’s game.

That should in theory benefit Northern Ireland with Denmark no longer desperate for points, but things are not always so simple.

If coach Kasper Hjulmand does choose to make changes, those players who come in will have a point to prove as attention turns to the squad selection for the finals.

Davis back in Belfast

There was a welcome sight at training on Sunday morning as absent captain Steven Davis watched the session from the sidelines.

After his recent spell as interim manager of Rangers, Davis has stepped back from his coaching role to concentrate on his rehabilitation from the knee injury which has sidelined him since December, and O’Neill remains hopeful the 38-year-old can finish his career on the pitch.

In the meantime, his experience in and around the group is invaluable.

“It’s great to see Davo back among the squad,” Paddy McNair said. “It’s great to have him around. When he’s at the hotel he can speak to the younger lads, they can ask him questions and he can pass on his experience.”

Brian Sorensen was left “irritated and frustrated” after seeing his Everton side held to a 2-2 draw at home to fellow strugglers Bristol City in the Barclays Women’s Super League.

Everton twice led in difficult conditions at Walton Hall Park, but were denied a first home win of the season as Amalie Thestrup struck eight minutes from time for Lauren Smith’s side.

“It’s very frustrating,” Sorensen said. “I think both goals were avoidable. It’s just about managing it better.

“We had enough chances to score more but right now I’m just a bit irritated and frustrated with the way they got in, and that we were not clinical enough to hurt them.

“That’s my feeling. It’s the luck we have at the moment, but it’s only up to us to get out of it by continuing to work hard.”

Everton were ahead early on as Martina Piemonte netted her first goal since her summer move from AC Milan, but Amy Rodgers levelled for the visitors in first-half stoppage time.

Megan Finnigan restored the home side’s lead after the break, only for Thestrup’s late strike to thwart Sorensen’s team.

“[Piemonte] was good today,” he said. “It was good that she got her first goal and hopefully she can get cracking on.

“It’s very frustrating that we had the chances to score more, but it was also tough conditions to play the game. It became scrappy and the ref made it more scrappy with some of the decisions.

“We’re disappointed, of course. We wanted more today but couldn’t get it.”

Smith, meanwhile, was left to reflect on a show of character from her City side.

“I think it was a pretty fair result,” she said. “When you look at the first 20 minutes, they were all over us, and in the last 20 minutes we were all over them, you’d say a draw is a fair result.

“I’m pretty pleased that we’ve come from behind twice, but there’s always a bit of you that thinks that when we’ve finished that strong, we want the win.

“These are the things you can take for granted sometimes. If you don’t have a team with character and belief, and confidence as well, you can really have problems, but that has never come into this group at all. It’s not a conversation we have.

“It’s the start of the season, and we are building and learning. We are really close to getting wins. We feel like the margins are quite small right now. It’s a ruthless league, and next week we might feel completely different, but right now it does feel like small margins.”

Luciano Spalletti is confident reigning continental champions Italy will seize the “right moment” to get the point they need to qualify for Euro 2024 from their showdown with rivals Ukraine in Leverkusen.

The second-placed Azzurri will join Group C winners England in reaching the finals on Monday if they can avoid defeat by Ukraine, who are playing this match in west Germany due to the conflict with Russia in their homeland, as they lead Serhiy Rebrov’s men on goal difference having won the first meeting 2-1 in Milan back in September.

Only a draw in North Macedonia and a 3-1 loss to England left Italy in this vulnerable position as their other results – 4-0 against Malta and 5-2 in Friday’s reverse against the Macedonians – have been more than convincing, and boss Spalletti was also in good form when previewing the crunch BayArena clash.

“The lads are well,” he told reporters. “There’s quality in every department and the potential is great.

“We go to Germany with the knowledge that we can get a result. Some important players have joined back up with us, like (Federico) Chiesa, who know how to make the difference, and we’ve got to know some new elements that can take this national side forward in the future.

“Our attitude must be to play the game the way we have prepared and spoken about it, not only from this week but since we started working together.”

Italy are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with Ukraine yet Spalletti nevertheless pointed to threats like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Mykhailo Mudryk.

“They are strong and powerful in attack,” he warned. “They have players who are in good form in the leagues they play in.

“We’ll have to play as a team and give everything we have. The magnitude of the game tells us that we need to go beyond our capabilities; we want to steal Italians’ hearts and this is the right moment to do it.

“It’s the game to take that step up in quality that allows you to work with more ease.

“We so desperately want this qualification. There have been some difficult moments, but we have earned the right to be in this position. We just need to think about getting a result without having to rely on others.”

Since suffering the San Siro setback Ukraine have won qualifiers against North Macedonia and Malta by two-goal margins to match Italy on 13 points before Monday’s decider.

Former Tottenham striker Rebrov will have Chelsea’s Mudryk back following injury, with Bournemouth defender Illya Zabarnyi and Vitaliy Mykolenko of Everton marshalling the backline.

Girona hotshot Artem Dovbyk will lead the line in Leverkusen, with Italy likely to stick with the strikeforce that thumped North Macedonia last time out: Giacomo Raspadori and Domenico Berardi will link up with Juventus star Chiesa. Davide Frattesi, meanwhile, could come in for Arsenal playmaker Jorginho.

Already-qualified England complete their Euro 2024 qualification campaign away to North Macedonia on Monday evening.

Ahead of the Group C finale in Skopje, the PA news agency has looked at five of the main talking points.

England attempt to end year unbeaten

Gareth Southgate’s men have ultimately cruised to qualification from a potentially tricky pool, going unbeaten across 2023 in the process. England have not looked back since rebounding from their World Cup quarter-final defeat to France by winning at reigning European champions Italy, going on to qualify with two games to spare. They all but sealed a place in the top pot for next month’s Euro 2024 draw by beating Malta 2-0 on Friday, taking this year’s record to eight wins in nine matches in all competitions. Southgate says he wants to end the year on a high and wants to build momentum by going go undefeated all the way through to Euro 2024.

Final foreign assignment before the Euros

England face March tests against Brazil and Belgium in Wembley friendlies, with another couple of home matches lined-up as Southgate’s side fine-tune for their shot at glory in Germany. It means Monday’s qualifier in Skopje will be their final match on foreign soil until the Euros get under way in June, with Southgate saying it will be good to be in “a challenging environment because that’s what we’re going to be in next summer”. There will be 2,332 travelling fans at the sold out 32,000-capacity Tose Proeski Arena, which may also end up playing host to Southgate’s final qualifier as England boss.

How will Southgate juggle his selection?

Southgate has dealt with a disruptive build-up and saw his already absentee-hit selection compounded by five of his initial group withdrawing through injury. A further three players have been absent for periods for the meet-up due to personal reasons, with Kieran Trippier among those and leaving the camp on Sunday. It means England have travelled to Skopje with just 22 players and Southgate is having to balance load, fitness and freshness for a potential dead rubber that will see wholesale changes. Cole Palmer will be hoping to make his first start after making his debut off the bench on Friday. The Chelsea talent was a late call-up along with Ezri Konsa and Rico Lewis, who will be hoping to win their first cap in the Balkans.

Can back-up attackers impress?

Record goalscorer Harry Kane would love to have the chance to pad his stats in Skopje, but surely Southgate will use this opportunity to give Ollie Watkins a run out as number nine. No England striker has been able to nail down a position as back-to the skipper but the in-form Aston Villa striker has a great chance with Ivan Toney banned and Callum Wilson suspended. Jarrod Bowen is another that needs to grasp his opportunity if Southgate turn his way. Selecting the 26-year-old over Raheem Sterling is a show of faith but the five-cap forward has so far failed to take his West Ham performances onto the international stage.

Macedonian revenge mission

North Macedonia were blown away in June’s reverse fixture at Old Trafford, where they were a far cry from the side that had recently shocked Germany and Italy. Kane struck twice in a 7-0 annihilation that also saw Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips get in on the act, but Bukayo Saka was the star of the show with his tremendous treble. Head coach Blagoja Milevski apologised to the nation in the post-match press conference and said on Sunday that he pledged to show a “new face” in the rematch. Given they held the Azzurri to a 1-1 draw in Skopje two months ago, it would be a shock if they are not vastly improved.

Neco Williams believes Armenia can do Wales a favour against Croatia and help them qualify for Euro 2024.

Wales’ automatic qualification hopes were taken out of their own hands on Saturday by a wounding 1-1 away draw to Armenia and Croatia’s 2-0 victory in Latvia.

Croatia will secure the second spot behind already-qualified Turkey by beating Armenia in their final qualifier on Tuesday.

But were Armenia to draw or win in Zagreb, that would leave the door open for Wales who would then take second place by beating Turkey at the Cardiff City Stadium on the same evening.

“Armenia are a top team,” wing-back Williams said of opponents who have damaged Wales’ qualification more than any other by taking four points from them.

“They have got some very good players and, hopefully, they can do a job on Croatia like they did against us.

“We still have a chance because you never know what’s going to happen.

“It’s not in our hands and we have got to wait for the other results. There’s a lot of luck in football, and hopefully it will be on our side.”

Wales lost 4-2 to Armenia at home in June and they were shaken again within five minutes of the Yerevan return.

Lucas Zelarayan, who had scored twice in Cardiff, punished some sloppy Welsh defending and Armenia appeared in control until the final seconds of the first half.

But Wales were gifted a lifeline when Nair Tiknizyan headed Connor Roberts’ long throw in to his own net.

Williams said: “It was a tough game, end to end, and a lot of running.

“Both teams were going for the win and probably at times it looked scrappy.

“As soon as the lads came in after the game you could feel that, frustration. No-one talked and it felt like a loss.

“But we take a point from it and all we can do now is focus on our last game against Turkey.

“If we get the three points there you never know what’s going to happen.”

The odds are that Wales will end up in the play-offs in March, the same route they negotiated to reach the 2022 World Cup by overcoming Austria and Ukraine.

Finland, Iceland, Poland and Ukraine are all potential opponents this time, although the fixtures will not be determined until after the final qualifiers across Europe.

“It could be something for us,” said Williams. “We did it for the World Cup and, if it does happen, we’ve still got a chance.

“If we don’t qualify through the group, do it that way.”

Daniel James admitted the early Zelarayan goal before a hostile Republican Stadium crowd had thrown Wales out of their stride.

James said: “They scored early and you know it’s going to be difficult because it’s a tough place to come.

“We dug deep and got back in the game, but we couldn’t get that second goal.

“We’ve just got to pick our heads up and get ready for the next game against a very good Turkey team.”

Central defender Chris Mepham will miss the Turkey game through suspension after picking up his third yellow card of the campaign in Yerevan.

Jason Knight has admitted the Republic of Ireland’s new generation must develop a ruthless streak if they are to fulfil their potential.

A difficult Euro 2024 Group B campaign drew to its seemingly inevitable conclusion on Saturday evening when a 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands in Amsterdam sent the Dutch through to next summer’s finals in Germany and Ireland home to lick their wounds.

Stephen Kenny’s men knew in advance of the game at the Johan Cruyff Arena that even the safety net of a play-off place via the Nations League had evaporated, and they were left to reflect upon home and away defeats by France, the Netherlands and Greece and a return of just six points at Gibraltar’s expense to show for their efforts.

Asked what lessons they had learned, Bristol City midfielder Knight said: “It’s fresh, but playing against Holland and France is about having a clinical edge.

“That’s been a large part of all the games we’ve been equal in: they’ve taken their chances and we haven’t. We defended well in large parts of all the games. Looking back briefly off the top of my head, we lacked a bit of creative spark and those goals when we needed to capitalise.

“The confidence is good. We’re playing some good attractive football at times. We’ve fallen on the wrong side of results against good teams. France and the Netherlands aren’t minnows of world football.

“There’s confidence within the group and definitely confidence we’ll turn it around.”

Knight, 22, is one of the flag-bearers for Kenny’s drastically overhauled squad which has seen the manager promote from the Under-21 ranks and promote a front-foot approach.

His efforts have met with limited success – Ireland have won just six of the 29 competitive games they have played under his charge, and that bottom line is perhaps the most potent weapon in the armoury of those calling for change.

Kenny is out of contract after Tuesday night’s friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium and his future will be decided at a meeting of the Football Association of Ireland’s board on November 28 when members consider a review of the campaign.

Whatever the outside noise, the 52-year-old’s players remain steadfastly behind him and Knight reiterated that message when asked about the future.


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He said: “Well, my view is that the manager is still here and we’re treating it as so. The manager has been great to me and the players. We want to be winning more games for him, but we’ll see what happens.”


Defeat in Amsterdam came courtesy of Wout Weghorst’s 12th-minute strike, although the game was not as close as the scoreline suggested and but for some less than effective finishing and the efforts of Republic keeper Gavin Bazunu, Ronald Koeman’s men could have had qualification tied up long before the final whistle.

Knight said: “We wanted a good performance and result, which ultimately we didn’t do. There were good parts to it. We just lacked a bit of creativity and cutting edge up top.

“There’s no doubt they’re a good team, but we can certainly be better in all aspects of our game, especially creating and scoring goals.”

Kieran Trippier has left the England camp due to a personal matter ahead of the Euro 2024 qualifier in North Macedonia.

Gareth Southgate’s side secured progress to next summer’s finals with two games to spare and Friday’s forgettable 2-0 win against Malta all but assured their spot among the top seeds in the December 2 draw.

England end their Euro 2024 qualification campaign and 2023 fixture calendar in Skopje on Monday night, when they will be unable to call upon Newcastle full-back Trippier.

The England account on X, formerly known as Twitter, said: “@trippier2 has departed the #ThreeLions camp, owing to a personal matter and will not travel to North Macedonia.”

Southgate has already been dealing with a string of an absentees and Trippier’s departure meant just 22 players trained during England’s final session on Sunday before flying out to Macedonia.

Southgate will be joined by Declan Rice at the press conference previewing the qualifier in Skopje.

Tottenham sacked manager Mauricio Pochettino on this day in 2019.

The sudden and unexpected decision came less than six months after the Argentinian had guided Spurs to the Champions League final.

Pochettino had been in charge for five-and-a-half years but paid the price for a poor start to the 2019-20 season.

He left Spurs 14th in the Premier League table after winning just three, and collecting only 14 points, from their opening 12 games of the campaign.

“Regrettably domestic results at the end of last season and beginning of this season have been extremely disappointing,” said chairman Daniel Levy.

“We were extremely reluctant to make this change. It is not a decision the board has taken lightly, nor in haste.”

Pochettino left Southampton to take over at Spurs in May 2014 and led them to the League Cup final in his first full season but lost to Chelsea.

They pushed Leicester for the title in 2016 but ultimately finished third. They were runners-up the following year and third again in 2018.

Their run to the Champions League final in 2019 included memorable wins over Manchester City and Ajax in the knockout stages but they were beaten by Liverpool in the showpiece in Madrid.

They also won only three of their final 12 Premier League matches of that season and it was the continuation of that form that eventually cost Pochettino.

His period in charge had also spanned Spurs’ move from their old White Hart Lane stadium to their new arena on the same site, with home games played at Wembley for 18 months.

Spurs wasted little time in replacing him, with his successor Jose Mourinho appointed the following day.

Pochettino returned to the game as Paris St Germain manager in January 2021, and after leaving the French club 18 months later he took charge at Chelsea this summer.

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