Soccer-Belgium's Tedesco ends first year in charge with target achieved

Soccer Football - Euro 2024 Qualifier - Group F - Belgium v Azerbaijan - King Baudouin Stadium, Brussels, Belgium - November 19, 2023 Belgium coach Domenico Tedesco REUTERS/Johanna Geron

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium completed their goal of earning a place in Pot 1 for the Euro 2024 finals draw following a 5-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Sunday, as coach Domenico Tedesco suggested it is a harder tournament to win than the World Cup.

Romelu Lukaku scored four goals in 20 first-half minutes as Belgium romped to the win that earned them top spot in their qualification pool ahead of Austria and a place among the top seeds in the Dec. 2 draw for next year’s finals in Germany.

"Sitting in Pot 1 can be a small advantage, because you avoid Germany, Portugal, France," Tedesco told reporters.

"But it is not the case that it becomes easy because in my opinion a European Championship is always more difficult (to win) than a World Cup."

Lukaku delivered an outstanding individual performance and his four goals took his tally to 14 - a record for a single Euros qualifying campaign.

"He was outstanding," Tedesco said. "If every shot on goal goes in, you can't do better. Is he the best striker I've ever worked with? That's always hard to say, but I think so. He is unstoppable."

Belgium have been in excellent form since a shock group stage exit at the World Cup in Qatar, which signalled the exit of former coach Roberto Martinez and the arrival of Tedesco.

They have not lost in 10 games since, and Tedesco said the atmosphere around the team, which had reportedly been strained in Qatar, is much improved.

"This group loves each other and that makes me feel very good," he said. "Both the young and experienced players are really hungry. That is very important."

Belgium will play England in London in a friendly in March, while Tedesco also confirmed they will play two matches against as yet unnamed opponents in June in the build-up to the Euros.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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