SIGN UP for our newsletter ✉️ :

Get the latest stories delivered straight to you

England labour to win, Italy step closer to Euro finals

England secured a top seeding at Euro 2024 with a laboured 2-0 home victory against Group C lightweights Malta that will not live long in the memory of an underwhelmed Wembley crowd.

Until the 75th minute all that separated Gareth Southgate's lacklustre side from 171st-ranked Malta was an early own goal by Enrico Pepe and they had some anxious moments in between.

Captain Harry Kane finally doubled England's lead with his 62nd goal for his country after good work by Bukayo Saka before Declan Rice had an effort ruled out for offside.

Skipper Harry Kane secured a 2-0 win over Malta by scoring England's second goal.

There was precious little to get enthused about though as several England fringe players wasted the chance to make a statement of intent to Southgate.

England had already qualified for next year's finals in Germany and victory over Malta ensured they will win Group C, regardless of what happens in North Macedonia on Monday.

Southgate's side now has 19 points from their seven games with Italy, who beat North Macedonia, and Ukraine on 13.

A second-half goal from Denmark midfielder Thomas Delaney ensured his side's qualification as the Danes secured a 2-1 home win over Slovenia that ensures they will top Group H.

The Danes top the group on 22 points from nine games, three ahead of Slovenia, who cannot overtake them even if they beat third-placed Kazakhstan, who have 18 points, in their final game on Monday due to their inferior head-to-head record against the Danes.

Wing back Joakim Maehle gave the home side the lead with a superb half-volley in the 26th minute, but a brilliant free kick from Erik Janza four minutes later put the visitors back on level terms.

Denmark celebrate Thomas Delaney's goal against Slovenia in Euro qualifying at Parken Stadium.

The 32-year-old Delaney, who missed last year's World Cup finals in Qatar due to injury, struck the winner nine minutes into the second half, blasting home from close range after the Slovenians failed to clear a corner.

Federico Chiesa scored two first-half goals as defending champions Italy beat North Macedonia 5-2 to gain a measure of revenge and move closer to qualifying.

Italy now need only a draw against Ukraine on Monday to secure a spot at next year's tournament in Germany.

North Macedonia kept Italy from qualifying for last year's World Cup with a 1-0 playoff win over the Azzurri in Palermo.

But North Macedonia had already been eliminated before their latest visit to Italy and the Azzurri quickly took control when fullback Matteo Darmian scored 17 minutes at the Stadio Olimpico for his first national team goal in more than eight years.

Chiesa scored his first by using one touch to launch in a long shot before scoring another with a looping effort in first-half added time.

Substitute Jani Atanasov pulled one back for North Macedonia with a header early in the second half and then scored again with a shot that deflected in off Italy defender Francesco Acerbi to make it a nervy ending for coach Luciano Spalletti's team.

But Giacomo Raspadori finished off a counterattack for Italy in the 81st and Stephan El Shaarawy added another in stoppage time to restore the three-goal advantage.

Federico Chiesa (r) waves to fans after scoring Italy's second goal against North Macedonia.

Italy and Ukraine now each have 13 points but Italy hold the advantage after beating Ukraine 2-1 in September.

Czech Republic midfielder Tomas Soucek cancelled out a first-half opener by Poland's Jakub Piotrowski to earn an 1-1 away draw, with both the Czechs and Moldova still able to qualify.

Poland took the lead in the 38th minute through Piotrowski but midfielder Soucek equalised after the break, prompting Poland to search for a winner.

Albania, coached by Brazilian Sylvinho, confirmed their spot in Germany with a 1-1 draw with Moldova.

Veteran forward Sokol Cikalleshi's 25th-minute penalty helped secure the point.

Moldova equalised in the 87th, but a point was enough for Albania to ensure a top-two finish in Group E, having outperformed higher-ranked Poland and the Czech Republic to ensure they'll play at just a second Euros after debuting at the 2016 edition.

with Reuters