- Sweden hosted Belgium in the UEFA Euro 2024 qualifiers on Friday, March 24 2023
- Belgium headed into the match under new management with Domenico Tedesco managing his first match
- Romelu Lukaku scored a hattrick as Belgium defeated Sweden 3-0 to kick off the road to Germany
Belgium began a new era under Domenico Tedesco with a 3-0 victory over Sweden in their first Euro 2024 qualifier on Friday, with Romelu Lukaku scoring a hat-trick.
After exiting the World Cup in the group stage, the Red Devils replaced Roberto Martinez with Tedesco, and a number of major names retired from international football.
Tedesco’s tenure began with a bang at Friends Arena in Stockholm, where Lukaku’s header and a close-range finish either side of halftime put the guests in command.
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Sweden introduced 41-year-old striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but Lukaku finished his treble in the 82nd minute to seal a comfortable win.
Dejan Kulusevski almost gave Sweden the lead when his shot slipped past Thibaut Courtois, only for Wout Faes to clear off the line.
The visitors took the lead 10 minutes before the break when Dodi Lukebakio’s right-sided pass was glanced in by Lukaku’s head.
After Lukebakio burst into the box, got away from his man, and once again picked out his teammate, the on-loan Inter striker doubled his score with a tap-in from a yard out.
Despite the introduction of Ibrahimovic, Sweden failed to pose any meaningful questions to Courtois, and Lukaku sealed the victory with a simple finish set up by Johan Bakayoko.
Belgium back in winning form
Belgium’s early exit from Qatar 2022 was their newest big tournament disappointment, but their qualifying record for the European Championships and World Cup is formidable.
The Red Devils have now won their last 15 Euro qualifiers, and they have now gone unbeaten in their last 33 qualifiers since a 1-0 setback to Wales in June 2015.
Tougher challenges await Tedesco’s team, which joins Austria – who defeated Azerbaijan 4-1 – on three points in Group F after Friday’s games, with Estonia yet to play their opener.
Romelu Lukaku in good form, Sweden outdone
Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld, and Eden Hazard may have retired from Belgium duty, but Lukaku, who is still on the right side of 30, is not done yet and obviously means business.
While he only scored five goals in 19 games for his team in a frustrating season, he scored three goals here to bring his tally for Belgium to 71 goals in 105 appearances.
Ibrahimovic’s longevity is exemplified by the fact that he represented Sweden at the 2002 World Cup and could play a role for them at Euro 2024 if his nation qualifies.
Despite the offensive talent of Kulusevski, Alexander Isak, and the returning Ibrahimovic, Sweden only managed two shots on goal in the second half when trailing.
Sweden returns to qualifying play on Monday against Azerbaijan at home, while Belgium travels to Germany for a friendly the following day.