England sealed their place at Euro 2024 on Tuesday as Harry Kane scored twice in a 3-1 win over Italy at Wembley, while Denmark scraped to victory over San Marino to keep their qualification bid on track.
Gareth Southgate’s England exacted a measure of revenge on Italy in a repeat of the Euro 2020 final won at the same stadium by the Azzurri on penalties.
Luciano Spalletti’s Italy still have plenty of work to do to avoid missing out on a major tournament for the third time in four qualification bids.
England wrapped up top spot in Group C with two games to spare, sitting three points clear of second-placed Ukraine who won 3-1 in Malta, with Italy three points further back.
“Qualifying is never easy. Sometimes we are just expected to go to the big tournaments but we have seen in the past it is not as easy as it looks,” Kane told Channel 4.
“We went 1-0 behind and stayed calm. We knew we could get the winner and we have done it.”
Four-time world champions Italy host bogey team North Macedonia in their game in hand on Ukraine before taking on the war-hit nation in Leverkusen in a crucial final match.
England started brightly on Tuesday but were caught out in the 15th minute by a sweeping Italian move which ended with Gianluca Scamacca tapping home his first international goal from Giovanni Di Lorenzo’s low cross.
But the home side levelled shortly after the half-hour mark as Kane planted a penalty into the corner after Jude Bellingham had been fouled in the box.
England only needed a point to qualify but completed the turnaround 12 minutes after the restart as the rampaging Bellingham won the ball in midfield before feeding Marcus Rashford, who cut inside and lashed a shot past Gianluigi Donnarumma.
Kane put the result beyond any doubt in the 77th minute, powering through the Italy defence and slotting home his 61st England goal.
Denmark, losing Euro semi-finalists to England two years ago, avoided an almighty shock with a nervy 2-1 win in San Marino to stay second in Group H.
The Danes could make sure of qualification in their next match with a win against group leaders Slovenia next month.
But they had to work hard against perennial losers San Marino, despite taking a first-half lead through Manchester United striker Rasmus Hojlund.
Denmark created very little and were made to pay as Alessandro Golinucci pounced to score San Marino’s first goal in Euro qualifying for four years to equalise in the 61st minute.
But Danish substitute Yussuf Poulsen broke San Marino hearts, steering a header into the far corner with 20 minutes to play.
San Marino have now lost 83 of their 84 Euro qualifiers — the sole exception a goalless draw with Estonia in 2014.
Panathinaikos midfielder Adam Gnezda Cerin kept Slovenia top as he netted the winner in a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland in Belfast.
But Slovenia still need another win from their last two matches to clinch a place at the finals, after Bakhtiyor Zainutdinov’s late double snatched Kazakhstan a dramatic 2-1 win in Finland.
The Kazakhs, who next host San Marino, visit Slovenia in the two teams’ final game, which could prove a winner-takes-all affair.
Hungary missed the chance to wrap up progression from Group G despite coming back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Lithuania.
Liverpool midfielder Dominik Szoboszlai scored a penalty and created Barnabas Varga’s leveller as Hungary edged closer to booking a ticket to Germany.
An Aleksandar Mitrovic brace and Dusan Tadic’s goal helped Serbia beat Montenegro 3-1 to stay second.
Serbia sit one point behind Hungary and five clear of Montenegro, although they have played a game more than their rivals.