LONDON — Harry Kane became England’s all-time leading goalscorer as the Three Lions enjoyed a perfect start to Euro 2024 qualifying by winning 2-1 away to Italy, as Cristiano Ronaldo scored twice in his record 197th cap in Portugal’s 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.
Kane netted his 54th goal for England in his 81st international appearance from the penalty spot in Naples after Declan Rice had fired the visitors into an early lead.
The England captain moves clear of the record mark he had shared with Wayne Rooney.
Gareth Southgate’s men gained some measure of revenge for their defeat by the Azzurri in the Euro 2020 final.
In their first match since bowing out in agonising fashion to France in the World Cup quarter-finals, England were dominant in the first 45 minutes.
Rice rifled home his third international goal on 13 minutes after Italy failed to clear a corner.
Another set-piece led to Kane’s record-breaking moment as Giovanni Di Lorenzo handled inside the area.
The Tottenham striker banished the memories of his missed penalty late on against France in Doha by sending Gianluigi Donnarumma the wrong way.
But Italy rallied after the break when Argentine-born striker Mateo Retegui fired home on his international debut.
England were forced to see out the final 10 minutes a man down after two quick fire yellow cards for Luke Shaw, but they held out for their first win away to Italy since 1961.
“We feel like we are one of the best teams in Europe,” added Kane according to AFP. “Coming here and putting in a performance like that today shows we are ready for the next challenge.”
In the other game in Group C, North Macedonia beat Malta 2-1.
Ronaldo marks historic night
It didn´t take long for Ronaldo to put the World Cup disappointment behind him.
Back as a starter with Portugal´s national team, Ronaldo became the most-capped player in men´s international soccer Thursday, scoring twice in a 4-0 rout of Liechtenstein in 2024 European Championship qualifying.
The game marked the debut of coach Roberto Martínez with Portugal.
Ronaldo converted a penalty kick and scored off a free kick while making his 197th appearance with the national team, AP reported.
He had tied Kuwait´s Bader Al-Mutawa with 196 caps after coming off the bench in Portugal´s loss to Morocco in the quarterfinals of the World Cup last year.
Ronaldo received a standing ovation after being substituted by Gonçalo Ramos in the 78th.
He had become Europe´s most-capped player in 2021 after surpassing Sergio Ramos´ mark of 180 appearances with Spain.
Martínez arrived pledging to respect Ronaldo’s history and said he still counts on Ronaldo. He made the forward one of his captains entering qualifying for Euro 2024.
Martínez replaced former Portugal coach Fernando Santos after ending his six-year stint with Belgium following the World Cup.
Portugal remained unbeaten in eight matches against Liechtenstein, with seven wins and a draw.
Portugal has won each of its last five Euro qualifying matches against Liechtenstein, all without conceding a goal and while scoring 32 times.
Portugal´s qualifying group also includes Luxembourg, Iceland, Slovakia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Its next match is at Luxembourg on Sunday. The top two nations from each of the 10 groups qualify for the final tournament in Germany.
“I like to break records, I have broken lot of records,” he told reporters on the eve of the match, which marked the first game in charge of new Portugal coach Roberto Martinez.
“I look for commitment,” said Martinez according to Reuters. “And Ronaldo has huge commitment to the national team, is a major figure for it, and has experience he can pass on.”
Ronaldo had been benched by former coach Fernando Santos for their final two games at last year’s World Cup in Qatar where Portugal lost in the quarter-finals to Morocco.
“It’s a new cycle. It is very important that a player shows commitment and that he can use his experience,” said Martinez. “Cristiano has that: a lot of experience and a lot of commitment to the national team.”
In the same group, Rade Krunic scored twice as Bosnia and Herzegovina swept aside Iceland 3-0.
But Slovakia, who has qualified for the last two Euros, were held 0-0 at home by Luxembourg.
Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark bounced back from their disappointing early exit at the World Cup to beat Finland 3-1 in Copenhagen.
Atalanta forward Rasmus Hojlund scored a hat-trick for the Danes on his first start for his country.
Elsewhere in Group H, Dion Charles scored twice as Northern Ireland won 2-0 in San Marino, while Slovenia came from behind to win 2-1 away to Kazakhstan.
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