Romelu Lukaku hat-trick overshadows Ibrahimovic's international return

Belgium register 3-0 victory over Sweden in Euro 2024 qualifier

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick against Sweden in their Euro 2024 qualifier. AFP
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Romelu Lukaku scored a hat-trick as Belgium claimed a 3-0 win over Sweden, overshadowing Zlatan Ibrahimovic's much-anticipated return to international football in their opening Euro 2024 qualifier on Friday.

Knocked out of the Qatar World Cup in the group stage, Belgium saw Domenico Tedesco replace Roberto Martinez as coach.

He could not have asked for a better debut as Inter Milan forward Lukaku scored all the goals away in Sweden in Group F.

Lukaku headed in the opener on 35 minutes and then netted with a tap-in, in off Victor Lindeloef, after being set up by Dodi Lukebakio early in the second half.

The 41-year-old Zlatan Ibrahimovic came off the bench for Sweden before Lukaku made it 3-0 with another easy finish.

"To take three points and score three goals in Sweden is never easy for any team," Tedesco told Belgium's RTBF.

Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic made a highly-anticipated return to International football. AP

"Winning is always the best thing to unite a group. As for my selection choices - the boys have shown that I wasn't wrong."

Ibrahimovic on Friday became the second oldest player to feature in a European championship qualifier but his landmark night ended in a sobering defeat.

Ibrahimovic came on as a 73rd-minute substitute in the Euro 2024 group game in Solna.

The Swedish star, born on October 3, 1981, was initially hailed as the oldest man to take part in a European qualifier.

However, it then emerged that Gibraltar striker Lee Casciaro, born on September 29, 1981, had taken the record in his team's match on Friday against Greece.

At 41 years, five months and 21 days, Ibrahimovic is still ahead of former Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff, who played against Sweden on May 29, 1983, at 41 years, three months and one day.

AC Milan's Ibrahimovic last weekend became the oldest player to score a goal in Serie A history.

Updated: March 25, 2023, 5:21 AM