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Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group I - Belgium v San Marino - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - October 10, 2019 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal. - REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group I - Belgium v San Marino - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - October 10, 2019 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku celebrates scoring their first goal. - REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS: Belgium became the first team to qualify for the 2020 European Championship finals as Romelu Lukaku scored twice in a 9-0 thrashing of San Marino in Brussels on Thursday.

Lukaku took his record Belgium international tally past 50 goals as Roberto Martinez’s Group I leaders opened up an unassailable 11-point lead over third-placed Cyprus with three games remaining.

“(For our next games) the approach will be identical, we have the responsibility to maintain our standards,” said Spanish coach Martinez. “The next step is to finish first in the group.”

The world-number-one ranked side booked their spot at next year’s tournament, which will be played at 12 venues across Europe, after seven straight qualifying wins.

Cristian Brolli of San Marino (L) and Nacer Chadli of Belgium in action during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group I qualifying soccer match between Belgium and San Marino at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels, Belgium, 10 October 2019. - EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ
Cristian Brolli of San Marino (L) and Nacer Chadli of Belgium in action during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group I qualifying soccer match between Belgium and San Marino at the King Baudouin stadium in Brussels, Belgium, 10 October 2019. - EPA/STEPHANIE LECOCQ

Russia appear set to take the second automatic slot from the group, after a 4-0 win over Scotland moved them eight points ahead of Cyprus.

Belgium will be one of the favourites as they look to lift a first major international title when the Euros get underway on June 12.

“In my eyes, nine countries have the talent to win the Euro,” added Martinez. “What will make the difference is how you face adversity. It’s necessary to sacrifice yourself for your teammates.”

Their victory at the King Badouin Stadium matched Belgium’s record winning margin of nine goals, having previously beaten Zambia and Gibraltar 9-0 in 1994 and 2017 respectively and hammered San Marino 10-1 in 2001.

Belgium's Yari Verschaeren scores a penalty kick during the Euro 2020 qualifier group I football game between Belgium and San Marino on October 10, 2019, in Brussels. (Photo by YORICK JANSENS / BELGA / AFP)
Belgium's Yari Verschaeren scores a penalty kick during the Euro 2020 qualifier group I football game between Belgium and San Marino on October 10, 2019, in Brussels. (Photo by YORICK JANSENS / BELGA / AFP)

“We could have scored more, so there is a little bit of disappointment about that 10th goal not falling,” said Belgian skipper Eden Hazard. “Now we have to go for 30 (points) from 30 in the group.”

Belgium were forced to wait until the 28th minute for the initial breakthrough on Thursday, which arrived when Leicester midfielder Youri Tielemans fed Lukaku, who fired home his landmark goal under San Marino goalkeeper Simone Benedettini.

The floodgates then opened, as Nacer Chadli slotted into the corner from the edge of the area three minutes later, and visiting defender Cristian Brolli scored a comical own goal 10 minutes before the interval as Benedettini pushed the ball against his knee and into the net.

Lukaku wasted little time in making it 51 Belgium goals with a low, right-footed effort, before Toby Alderweireld’s deflected strike and Tielemans’ drive made it six before half-time.

Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group I - Belgium v San Marino - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - October 10, 2019 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in action with San Marino's Cristian Brolli. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir
Soccer Football - Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group I - Belgium v San Marino - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - October 10, 2019 Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in action with San Marino's Cristian Brolli. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

Substitute Christian Benteke drilled in number seven with 11 minutes remaining, 18-year-old Yari Verschaeren scored his first international goal from the penalty spot, and Atalanta defender Timothy Castagne completed the rout in the 90th minute.

“Nine-nil is a good result but we would have loved to have scored one more and broken that all-time record,” said Inter Milan striker Lukaku. - AFP

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