NOVI SAD, Serbia : Switzerland's Renato Steffen scored a hat-trick inside the opening half hour to lead his team to a 5-0 win over Belarus at the start of their Euro 2024 qualifying campaign on Saturday.
Captain Granit Xhaka and substitute Zeki Amdouni added the other goals in the Group I game behind closed doors in Serbia.
Steffen's goals all came in similar fashion, set up down the left-hand side of the Swiss attack, as he proved an effective poacher to complete his treble in 29 minutes.
The 31-year-old's first goal came after four minutes with a tap-in at the back post, the second was a left-foot finish as goalkeeper Andrei Kudravets parried the ball to him in the 17th and the third was an easy touch from Ricardo Rodriguez’s cross.
Xhaka made it 4-0 just past the hour with a left footed shot from outside the penalty area and Amdouni, on only his second appearance, sprinted onto Xhaka’s long pass and ahead of the defence to finish in style for the fifth three minutes later.
Belarus striker Vladimir Khvaschinski had hit the woodwork in the first minute at the Karadjordje Stadium but that was as much as the hosts offered as they were thoroughly outplayed.
It was Switzerland’s first game since their 6-1 loss to Portugal in the last 16 at the World Cup in Qatar in December.
The Swiss next host Israel in Geneva on Tuesday when Belarus visit Romania in their second matches of the Euro qualifiers.
European soccer’s governing body UEFA has banned Belarusian teams from playing at home due to the country’s role in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a 'special operation'.
(Writing by Mark Gleeson; Editing by Ken Ferris)