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European champion Italy took a big step Tuesday toward being able to defend its title. Spain and Belgium won easily on their path to Euro 2024. Sweden looks as if it’s failing to qualify for the first time in 28 years.

Romania and Kosovo managed to finish a game that risked being abandoned. Political pro-Serbia chants by home fans in Bucharest forced a 45-minute delay in the first half and players were taken back to their locker rooms.

After Romania risked forfeiting the game as a 3-0 loss, late goals earned a 2-0 win though the national federation now faces punishment in a UEFA disciplinary case.

The highest-stakes game of the evening saw Italy secure a vital 2-1 win over Ukraine in what shapes as a tight race to finish second in the group led by England.

Italy and Ukraine are tied on seven points – with North Macedonia, which beat Malta 2-0 but has the toughest schedule – trailing six behind England, who Italy must face at Wembley Stadium next month.

Settled Spain

On the field, the Spanish men’s team has found a calm serenity in stark contrast to the scandalous furor surrounding its now-former federation president Luis Rubiales. A 6-0 rout of Cyprus on Tuesday followed a 7-1 win at Georgia on Friday. In between, Rubiales finally resigned while suspended by FIFA and now under criminal investigation by Spanish prosecutors for alleged sexual assault against player Jenni Hermoso at the Women’s World Cup final on Aug. 20. Spain now trails six points behind group leader Scotland. Spain lost 2-0 in Glasgow in March and hosts the Scots next on Oct. 12 before playing its game in hand at Norway three days later. Norway stars Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard scored first-half goals Tuesday in a 2-1 win over Georgia to stay in outside contention for a top-two finish. The playoffs await Norway as a safety net.

Sweden slumps

Sweden does not have a playoff option and not much hope of a top-two finish trailing badly behind Belgium and Austria in Group F. As Belgium cruised past last-place Estonia 5-0, Sweden slumped to a 3-1 home loss against Austria that left coach Janne Andersson insisting he would not walk away from the job he has held for more than seven years.

Tight race

Switzerland, Romania and Israel are locked in a three-way battle for two qualifying places from Group I. Romania captain Nicolae Stanciu went over to talk with fans who had chanted and displayed a banner with the “Kosovo is Serbia” slogan early in the game. Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia in 2008 is formally recognized by about 100 countries and the majority of European Union members though not Romania. Late goals by Stanciu and Valentin Mihil, in stoppage time, sealed the win that proved even more important after Israel also found a goal in added time from Gabi Kanichowsky to beat Belarus 1-0. Switzerland eventually cruised past last-place Andorra 3-0 with second-half goals from Cedric Itten, Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri.

England beats Scotland in international soccer’s oldest rivalry

GLASGOW, Scotland – Scotland vs. England is international’s soccer’s oldest rivalry. Jude Bellingham is one of the sport’s brightest young stars. And on Tuesday the Real Madrid midfielder continued his outstanding start to the season by inspiring England to a 3-1 win at Hampden Park. Bellingham scored a goal and provided an assist for Harry Kane after Phil Foden had fired the Three Lions ahead in the game that celebrated the 150-year anniversary of the Scottish Football Association. A Harry Maguire own goal provided the only moment of cheer for the hosts. Bellingham is back with his England teammates after making a sensational start to life at Madrid, where he has scored five goals in four games since joining from Borussia Dortmund in June for a fee that could reach US$139-million. He is quickly establishing himself as one of the world’s elite players and is likely to be central to England’s bid to win next year’s European Championship. The 20-year-old Bellingham dominated a Scotland team that is on the verge of qualifying for Euro 2024 itself after winning five out of five games in qualifying to top a group that includes Spain.

Cathal Kelly: Is Rubiales’s resignation the end? It’s never that simple

Spanish soccer ready to move forward with federation president Luis Rubiales finally out

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