Saka treble helps England thrash N. Macedonia 7-0 in Euro qualifier

Saka treble helps England thrash N. Macedonia 7-0 in Euro qualifier

MANCHESTER, England-- England's Bukayo Saka netted a hat-trick in a 7-0 rout of North Macedonia as they tightened their grip atop Group C in Euro 2024 qualifying on Monday with a fourth consecutive victory. Captain Harry Kane, with his 57th and 58th goals for his country, Marcus Rashford and Kalvin Phillips all scored at Old Trafford in a game the hosts dominated as predicted. "This is a feeling I can't really put into words. There's nothing I can say to describe it. I'm just so happy," Saka told Channel 4.

Manager Gareth Southgate revealed that Saka's tremendous performance had come despite a nagging Achilles injury. "He's had it for a few weeks," Southgate told a news conference. "It is an injury that just needs managing... when you've had one of the best nights of your life, it's a reminder that it's worth going through these things." England look set for next year's finals after amassing a perfect 12 points, having also beaten Ukraine, who are second on six points from three matches, Italy and Malta. Saka's scoring heroics came in a flurry straddling halftime. His first goal in the 38th minute was an angled shot into the top corner. His second just after the break came after he chested the ball down and struck a left-foot volley. Saka completed his treble in the 51st after running on to a through ball from Kane and then was swamped by joyous team mates.

Southgate wrapped the grinning 21-year-old in a bear hug when he was substituted minutes later. Saka, who left the pitch after the final whistle clutching the game ball, is the first Arsenal player to score a hat-trick for England, and the youngest since Theo Walcott in 2008 against Croatia. On the heels of a brilliant season for Arsenal, Monday also marked a high after he missed the decisive penalty kick in a shootout loss to Italy in the 2020 Euro final -- held in 2021. "It's been a really long season. I couldn't have ended it in a better way," Saka said. "Time to relax and have a break. We're really happy with the way the fans turned out and supported us." Kane opened the scoring in the 29th minute and the Tottenham star added a second with a second-half penalty kick. Rashford tapped in a cross from Jordan Henderson just before halftime, while Manchester City's Phillips scored in the 64th minute. "Tonight was a really special display that we put out," Saka said.

"Of course, with me and (Rashford) running down the wings, we were really direct and they couldn't really handle us. I enjoyed playing out there today." Three days after their 4-0 away win over Malta, the thrashing of North Macedonia added to England's dominant run of Euro qualifying that stretches back to 2016. They have won their last 12 home qualifiers by an aggregate score of 47-4. England next play Ukraine on Sept. 9 when fourth-placed North Macedonia, who are struggling to match their qualifying high of Euro 2020 and have three points from three matches, host Italy. The Italians are third with three points from two games.

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