After bagging three wins out of three matches in the 2024 UEFA EURO Qualifiers, England thrashed North Macedonia in Matchday 4 with a resounding 7-0 victory at Old Trafford, thanks to goals from Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka, Tottenham Hotspur’s Harry Kane, Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford and Manchester City’s Kalvin Phillips. This triumph meant Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions have now won half of the eight matches in the UEFA EURO Qualifiers and are almost certain to book a place in the 2024 UEFA European Championship, which will be contested in Germany.
Bukayo Saka’s First Career Treble
Southgate’s men emerged victorious against Malta with a 4-0 scoreline a few days earlier, and the 52-year-old made only two replacements to his starting line-up in this match in the form of John Stones and Rashford. On the other hand, North Macedonia, who suffered a cruel comeback defeat against Ukraine last time around, saw only one change in Matchday 4, with Darko Velkovski replacing the suspended Visar Musliu.
Three Lions got their breakthrough in the 29th minute, when Liverpool captain Jordan Henderson found Rashford on the left flank. The striker waited for his club mate Luke Shaw to make an overlap run, before rolling a pass to the latter. The defender then whipped in a delicious cross for his skipper to score his 57th goal for England.
The home side doubled its lead less than ten minutes later, when a patient build-up on the right wing ended with Saka’s powerful strike that beat goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski. England got another right before the half-time whistle was blown, courtesy of a mistimed pass by the North Macedonia defence that was intercepted by Kane. The 29-year-old swiped a pass to the charging Henderson, before the midfielder fed Rashford for his 16th international goal.
15 Goals for England in the 2024 UEFA EURO Qualifiers
Southgate’s side picked up where they left off two minutes after the restart, when England’s new no. 10 Trent Alexander-Arnold launched a long pass that was met by Saka at the edge of the North Macedonia penalty box. The 21-year-old controlled the ball well, followed by hitting a half-volley into the back of the net. Saka needed no time to complete his first career hat-trick, when he coolly slotted home his third after being unleashed by Kane with a through ball.
The Three Lions were not going to settle for a 5-0 victory for this match and continued to push for more in the remainder of the match. In the 64th minute, substitute Jack Grealish delivered a cross into the dangerous zone and was parried by Nikola Serafimov, but the defender’s effort fell short as the ball landed before Henderson for a tap-in.
A penalty was awarded eight minutes later, when John Stones was fouled in the penalty box, prompting Kane to score the second goal of his brace. The seventh and final goal of England’s ended a nightmare evening for the visiting North Macedonia, who has now lost two matches in a row in the 2024 UEFA EURO Qualifiers.
Southgate: “He (Saka) Is Exceptional to Work with.”
The England gaffer had nothing but compliments over the five-star performance by Saka. In the post-match conference, Southgate hailed his right winger’s ability to deal with pressure and mental toughness regardless of the situation of his club and country, calling him an exceptional player to work with in his project of bringing England forward.
Rashford Set to Sign Long-Term Deal with Manchester United
Saka’s international teammate, Rashford, who had his best scoring season of 30 goals in the newly-concluded season, is ready to pen a new long-term deal with the Red Devils during the peak of his career. The striker is clearly happy under the reign of Dutch manager Erik ten Hag and is ready to achieve greatness both domestically and internationally with his club in the upcoming season.