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Big guns Italy, Belgium enjoy Euro qualifying wins


Inter Milan midfielder Davide Frattesi has scored twice as Italy claimed a crucial 2-1 win over Ukraine to keep their hopes of reaching next year's European Championship finals alive.

The defending champions headed into the game trailing their second-placed rivals by five points in Group C following Saturday's draw with North Macedonia.

But Frattesi's double in the first 30 minutes gave the Italians valuable breathing space in Milan, despite Andriy Yarmolenko reducing the deficit before the break.

The win, Luciano Spalletti's first as Italy coach, boosted their chances of qualifying for Euro 2024 after the misery of failing to reach last year's World Cup.

They moved into second place, above Ukraine on head-to-head record — with the return match scheduled for next month. The Azzurri have played a game less than Ukraine and England, who lead the group by six points.

North Macedonia also moved onto seven points after winning 2-0 at Malta, who have zero points.

Elsewhere, Belgium and Austria cemented their status as joint leaders of Group F with convincing wins over Estonia and Sweden respectively.

Romelu Lukaku scored twice in Belgium's 5-0 stroll over the Estonians, while Marko Arnautovic also hit a double as Austria impressed with a 3-1 win in Solna.

Erling Haaland opened the scoring as Norway beat Georgia 2-1 in Group A in a game that could have seen Scotland seal automatic qualification had it ended in a draw.

Spain went second in the standings after thrashing Cyprus 6-0, with Ferran Torres netting a second-half brace.

In Group I, Switzerland went top after beating Andorra 3-0. Israel defeated Belarus 1-0, while the clash in Bucharest between Romania and Kosovo was suspended for just under an hour after Romanian fans repeatedly shouted provocative political chants.

Play eventually resumed and the hosts won 2-0 to go second.

With AP & Reuters.