Romelu Lukaku hit his 50th and 51st international goals as Belgium became the first team to qualify for Euro 2020 after they hammered San Marino 9-0 – matching the record for the biggest margin of victory in their history.
Inter Milan striker Lukaku became the first Belgian to reach the milestone with a right-footed shot to open the scoring in the 28th minute.
He set up Nacer Chadli three minutes later before an own-goal from Cristian Brolli put Belgium 3-0 up. Lukaku grabbed his second – and 51st goal for Belgium – on 41 minutes, assisted by Real Madrid’s Eden Hazard. A deflected Toby Alderweireld effort in the 43rd minute and a Youri Tielemens shot in stoppage time saw Belgium cruise in 6-0 up at the break.
Belgian First Division A side R.S.C. Anderlecht have passed up the opportunity to sign Nigeria U17s free-kick expert Wisdom Ubani when he attains the age of majority. Ubani underwent trials at Anderlecht but failed to impress their youth team coaching staff. The Giant Brillars F.C, Enugu striker received a pre-contract offer from an unnamed Scandinavian team prior to his trip to Belgium but rejected their advances. At the 2019 U17 Africa Cup of Nations, Ubani was the Golden Eaglets standout player, ending the competition with three goals but has recently suffered a dip in form. Golden Eaglets coach Manu Garba is worried about the player’s consistency and had considered axing him from the 25-player traveling squad to Sao Paulo. Ubani was a shadow of himself in last month’s UEFA ASSIST Invitational Tournament in Turkey, failing to score in any of the three matches played by the Golden Eaglets. Manu opted to include the 2003-born player on the roster only because he helped the team qualify for the World Cup in Brazil.
The People’s Elephant manager rejects assertions his team have an easy opponent in the play-off round
Enyimba coach Usman Abd’Allah has assured his team will not make the mistake of underrating their opponents in the Caf Confederation Cup play-off round, TS Galaxy.
Although the Rockets are greenhorns on the continent compared to the People’s Elephant who are two-time African champions, Abd’Allah insists it will be wrong to think the South African club poses no threat to his team’s ambition.
“I don’t think it really matters if they [TS Galaxy] are in the second division because they are Cup winners,” Abd’Allah told the media as he reflected on Wednesday’s pairings.
“So, they must have beaten big teams to become the Cup winners and I’m not going to take anything for granted.
“We are not taking anything for granted, we are going to treat any team as one of the best teams.”
Having failed in their bid to challenge for a third Champions League title, the Enyimba coach stated they would be taking the Confederation Cup seriously as it is now their solitary hope for glory on the continent.
The manager assured his team will “do everything possible” to ensure they remain in the hunt for the trophy by progressing to the group stage after the two-legged encounter with TS Galaxy who beat CNapS Sport of Madagascar to make the playoffs.
“We are going to take this match as important as any other match that we’ve played. The most important thing is to qualify for the group stage,” Abd’Allah continued.
“Now the target is for the group stage so we are going to work and do everything possible to see that we qualify for the group stage.
“This is the last chance we’ll get and we are not going to let it slip away from our hands now. I think the team will be ready for that match.”
The first leg of the encounter will see Enyimba welcome TS Galaxy to Aba on the weekend of October 27 before the return leg in South Africa a week later.
Stoke City midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo has withdrawn from the Super Eagles squad ahead of Sunday’s international friendly against Brazil at the National Stadium in Singapore, allnigeriasoccer.com reports. The Potters number eight was sighted in Lagos on Wednesday, fueling speculation that he was set to miss the friendly against the South Americans and this has been confirmed by the Nigeria Football Federation via a press release, without stating the reason why he pulled out of the game. The NFF and manager Gernot Rohr have opted not to call up replacements for Etebo and Torino defender Ola Aina. CSKA Sofia’s Viv Solomon-Otabor and Benfica’s Tyronne Ebuehi were handed late invitations following the unavailability of Samuel Kalu and Kenneth Omeruo as a result of injury. Twenty-one players trained on Thursday morning under the guidance of Rohr and two workouts will be held on Friday. The official training session will take place on Saturday, with the match scheduled to kick off at 1300 hours Nigeria time on Sunday.
Super Eagles 21-Man Squad For Brazil Friendly Goalkeepers: Francis Uzoho (Omonia FC, Cyprus); Ikechukwu Ezenwa (Heartland FC); Emil Maduka Okoye (Fortuna Dusseldorf, Germany) Defenders: Abdullahi Shehu (Bursaspor FC, Turkey); Chidozie Awaziem (CD Leganes, Spain); William Ekong (Udinese FC, Italy); Tyronne Ebuehi (SL Benfica, Portugal); Jamilu Collins (SC Padeborn 07, Germany); Oluwasemilogo Ajayi (West Bromwich Albion, England) Midfielders: Alexander Iwobi (Everton FC, England); Anderson Esiti (PAOK Salonica, Greece); Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City, England); Joseph Ayodele-Aribo (Glasgow Rangers, Scotland); Ramon Azeez (Granada FC, Spain) Forwards: Victor Osimhen (Lille OSC, France); Moses Simon (FC Nantes, France); Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal FC, Spain); Efosa Solomon-Otabor (PFC CSKA Sofia, Bulgaria); Paul Onuachu (KRC Genk, Belgium); Emmanuel Dennis (Club Brugge, Belgium); Peter Olayinka (SK Slavia Prague, Czech Republic)
Pep Guardiola says Phil Foden is indispensable to Manchester City and even 500m euros (£450m) would not be enough to prise the youngster away from the Etihad Stadium.
The City boss said in April that Foden will be an important player for the club “for the next decade” and apologised to the 19-year-old earlier this month for not handing him the minutes he deserves this season.
Guardiola insists Foden is the natural successor to veteran playmaker David Silva – who brings the curtain down on his decade-long stay with City at the end of the season – and remains convinced the Stockport-born midfielder will be one of England’s best players for years to come.
“We didn’t give Foden a new contract by accident,” Guardiola told The Sun.
“He is the only player that can’t be sold under any circumstances, the only one. Not even for 500m euros.
“Phil’s going nowhere. Phil is City. We won’t be signing anyone else for that position. When David Silva leaves, we know exactly who our new magician will be.”
“He’s grown up with us. He’s one of us and he’s going to be brilliant – one of the Premier League’s best.”
Borussia Dortmund CEO Hans-Joachim Watzke has revealed he tried to lure Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp back to the club in the summer of 2018.
Klopp won two Bundesliga titles during his seven years at Dortmund and transformed the club back into European contenders.
The German departed Dortmund in 2015 before taking up his current role at Liverpool a few months later and has since led the Reds to Champions League success.
Although Watzke wanted to bring Klopp back to the Bundesliga club, he admits he was not surprised that his former manager did not break his contract with Liverpool.
“I knew that Jurgen would [decline], that he will fulfil his contract in Liverpool,” Watzke wrote in his new book REAL LOVE. A life with BVB.
“Jurgen has always fulfilled his contracts, but if you want to go new ways and we had to break new ground at BVB, then at least I had to ask Jurgen if he could possibly imagine that.
“I did not expect that at all, but I would not have forgiven myself for not asking him at that moment.”
As well as guiding Liverpool to their sixth European Cup, Klopp has his side well placed to end their wait for a first league title in 30 years.
Liverpool are already eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City in the Premier League, and Watzke believes Klopp’s ability to be so successful is due to the fact he is “always honest”.
“The most important thing in our relationship was and is that we can rely on each other blindly,” he added.
“Jurgen never lied to me. He is always honest, even in the job. And I never lied to him.
“Even in the most difficult phase, in the season of separation, when we crashed to the last place sometime shortly before the separation in the Bundesliga, that was the case.
Prague steels itself for England’s fans, Ireland may have a new hero in Aaron Connolly and Scotland are desperate to find goals
1) All eyes on fans in Prague
In what looks certain to resemble the world’s most unedifying stag party, an estimated 6,000 England fans will descend on Prague to watch Gareth Southgate’s team take on the Czech Republic. Unsurprisingly designated as a “high risk” fixture, this Friday night game will attract no shortage of thirsty visitors to the Czech capital, hellbent on making a weekend of it in a city renowned for the cheapness of its beer and myriad other nocturnal delights. Scheduled to kick off at 8.45pm local time, when more patriotic fans will have had all day to occupy the city’s Old Town Square, get liquored up and perform their traditional repertoire of ditties, it is difficult to imagine the local constabulary will be kept idle following
Uefa’s refusal to move the game to a more suitable day or time. While many England fans are perfectly well-behaved, anti-social behaviour of the kind seen in Amsterdam and Porto on recent excursions seems dismally inevitable. “You’re part of our team, make the country proud,” said Gareth Southgate, in the FA’s attempt to get in front of the problem by releasing a video entitled Don’t Be That Idiot . Somebody will almost certainly be that idiot and, if recent history tells us anything, they are unlikely to be alone
2) Is Connolly the solution to Ireland’s scoring problems?
Mick McCarthy’s second coming as Republic of Ireland manager got going in earnest in March when his team played with impressive vibrancy at home to Georgia, though they only won 1-0 . Goals, you see, remain extremely hard to come by for Ireland. But a solution may have emerged: Brighton’s Aaron Connolly, fresh from scoring twice against Spurs last weekend , could make his senior international debut in Tblisi on Saturday. If he shows the same sharpness that he did against Tottenham, then Ireland could take a big step towards Euro 2020 qualification, and young Connolly will be hearing more of that ‘new Robbie Keane’ talk.
3) Ramsey injury may force tactical change on Giggs Anything less than a haul of four points from games at Slovakia and at home against Croatia over the coming days is likely to end any chance Wales have of qualifying for Euro 2020, although they could still be thrown a lifeline via the Nations League. Suffering from discomfort to his adductor, Aaron Ramsey, arguably a more important player for the Welsh than even Gareth Bale, is out of the Slovakia game. Ryan Giggs could be forced into a tactical change and the thinking by Danny Gabbidon and Iwan Roberts on Elis James’s Feast Of Football podcast was that Giggs needs to avoid playing the brand of expansive football he prefers in charge of making his team more difficult to beat. With this in mind, playing five at the back with two midfielders sitting directly in front of them was mooted as a potential solution. Whatever Giggs decides, a very talented generation of Welsh players is in danger of being wasted and the results of the next two games could have a major say in the future of a young manager who has been far from convincing during his tenure so far.
4) Endangered Iceland should fear Ben Yedder
Darlings of the last European Championship, Iceland need to pull out some big results if they are to reach Euro 2020. They are third in Group H, behind an exciting young Turkey team and France, who thrashed them 4-0 earlier in the group. On Friday they host Les Bleus , who will be without the injured Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappé but still have no shortage of options. Didier Deschamps could, for instance, use Mbappé’s absence to give Wissam Ben Yedder his most meaningful cap to date. The striker, who joined Monaco in the summer and has been as prolific there as he was at all his previous clubs, has had to wait a long time for international recognition but, at 29, he is still young enough and good enough to make an impact. He would boost his chances of appearing in an international tournament if he helps France beat Iceland on Friday and Turkey three days later.
5) Another toothless performance from Scotland?
While Scotland’s rugby players scored 61 without reply against Russia at the Rugby World Cup, their footballing counterparts would gladly settle for victory by a far slimmer margin when they are entertained in Moscow on Thursday. Scotland trail Russia, who are second in Group I behind Belgium, by nine points with four games remaining and their hopes of qualifying via any other route than the play-off place they earned through the Nations League have evaporated. In Ryan Fraser, John McGinn, Andy Robertson, Scott McTominay and John Fleck Scotland have decent players, but their inability to score goals remains aconcern. The six forward players picked by Steve Clarke squad have just eight international goals between them and urgently need to improve that tally ahead of those play-offs so many Scottish hopes are pinned on.
6) O’Neill’s rock-hard run-in starts in Netherlands Second behind Germany in a group that also contains the Netherlands, Northern Ireland’s remaining fixtures in Group C could scarcely be more difficult. Following their trip to Amsterdam they travel to the Czech Republic for a friendly, before completing their qualifiers against the Dutch at home and Germany away in November. Michael O’Neill will have to make do without Norwich left-back Jamal Lewis, who has pulled out with a knee injury, but the manager remains upbeat about his team’s chances of doing enough in successive qualifiers against the Netherlands to not have to concern himself with a potential route to the finals through the Nations League play-offs.
7) Switzerland need to find the right side of late dramas
Switzerland could have already secured their qualification for Euro 2020, instead they are set for a tense finale in Group D: and they have not coped well with tense finales so far. In their first match, at home to Denmark, they blew a three-goal lead in the last six minutes; and in their last outing, in the Republic of Ireland , they looked comfortable before conceding an 85th-minute equaliser and hanging on for a point. They face those two countries again in the next few days, starting with a trip to Copenhagen on Saturday. Xherdan Shaqiri has chosen to remain in international exile but manager Vladimir Petkovic has recalled Stephan Lichtsteiner after omitting him for the trip to Dublin. Apparently he values the 35-year-old’s experience.
8) Crunch time for Finland to break drought
Finland have never qualified for a major tournament. It’s somewhat of an annoyance for a nation of over five million people who gave football the supremely talented Jari Litmanen. Even tiny Iceland have beaten them to the punch. But having assumed a strong position in Group J – they’re second behind Italy – they will never have a better chance of enjoying a summer party themselves. Markku Kanerva’s side have won four and lost two (both to Italy) but now it’s crunch time. They face Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia next, the two teams directly below them. They travel to the Bilino Polje Stadium in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Saturday. With Norwich’s in-form Teemu Pukki leading the line, Kanerva’s compact system is well set up to pick off their inconsistent opponents on the break. Finland have not conceded a goal against any team except Italy and Pukki has been just as lethal in qualifying as he has in the Premier League, scoring five in his last six. If he can continue his hot streak over the next few days, Finland’s long wait for some summer fun could soon be over.
9) Can Hungary capitalise against inconsistent Croatia?
Going into their game against Slovakia last time out, Hungary were pretty much two wins from Euro 2020. Now, after a 2-1 loss, qualification from Group E looks unlikely. Hungary did beat a sluggish Croatia in Budapest in their previous group encounter, and looked impressive in doing so. But with Hungary distinctly lacking in individual quality, it’s the sum of their parts that makes this Hungarian apparatus tick. And when two or three of those parts falter, the whole machine malfunctions, as evidenced against Slovakia. Things don’t look like changing in Croatia either, with very few of Hungary’s key men finding any kind of form at club level this season. Yet Hungary are an odd side full of players unheard of in western Europe, but who are prone to big performances in big games. Croatia are massive favourites, but Hungary have refound a quality of turning up when it matters most under Italian coach Marco Rossi. And with Croatia looking decidedly inconsistent since the World Cup, maybe this isn’t as improbable as first thought.
10) Andorra aim to – finally – end long losing streak Andorra have played 55 European Championship qualifiers and lost 55 European Championship qualifiers. It’s not pretty but maybe, just maybe, the tiny principality (population 76,965) could end that ugly losing streak against Moldova at home. Their visitors are the one nation that have a worse defensive record than them, having shipped 17 goals in six Group H qualifiers to Andorra’s 14. Moldova have managed to win once, 1-0 at home against Andorra , but if ever there was a chance for Koldo Álvarez to take a point – or even three – in a Euro qualifier, it is at the Estadi Nacional on Friday night. It would help if they could score a goal, mind. They haven’t managed that in six Euro 2020 qualifiers but even a 0-0 draw would be enough to make history.
Credit: Barry Glendenning , Paul Doyle , Gregg Bakowski and Tomasz Mortimer
The football never stops. We are entering the penultimate block of Euro 2020 qualifiers, and are now at the stage when teams can book their place in next summer’s tournament.
So who needs what? We look at the home nations and the Republic of Ireland’s hopes – plus see who can qualify from the other groups this month.
Gareth Southgate’s England will book their place at Euro 2020 if they beat the Czech Republic in Prague on Friday. That is because they will go six points above the Czechs, who will have two games left, with a better head-to-head record.
England then visit Bulgaria on Monday for their next qualifier.
The Czech Republic and Kosovo are also battling for a qualification spot, although neither side can secure their place or be eliminated this month.
Northern Ireland only play one qualifier this month, in the Netherlands on Thursday. A win would take them six points above the Dutch, who would have three games left. A defeat and Michael O’Neill’s side will slip out of the qualification spots.
None of the three teams in contention for the two spots, including leaders Germany, can seal a Euro 2020 spot or be eliminated in these games.
Wales visit Slovakia on Thursday and host Croatia on Sunday. Two wins could take them into the qualifying spots, although there are so many variables at this stage. Two defeats and their dreams are practically over.
Croatia could qualify with wins over Hungary and Wales – although it would depend on other results.
Scotland’s hopes of finishing in the top two are all but over. Failure to beat Russia in Moscow on Thursday could fully close that door before Sunday’s home game with San Marino. However, the Scots are guaranteed a play-off place next March thanks to the Nations League.
Belgium will qualify for Euro 2020 if they beat San Marino or if Kazakhstan and Cyprus draw – both games are on Thursday. Russia could also qualify if they beat Scotland and Kazakhstan and Cyprus draw. A win over Scotland and then a victory in Cyprus would also be enough for the Russians.
Republic of Ireland
If the Republic of Ireland win both away games this month – in Georgia on Saturday and Switzerland on Tuesday – then they will qualify for Euro 2020.
A win in Tbilisi would mean they only need draws in Geneva and at home to Denmark next month.
Who else can qualify?
Spain, who have won all six games in Group F, will reach Euro 2020 if they win in Norway and Sweden. Victory in Oslo would be enough if Romania do not beat the Faroe Islands.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine will go through from Group B if they get four points from games against Lithuania and Portugal. Portugal could qualify with two wins, but they would need Serbia to slip up in Lithuania.
Italy will reach Euro 2020 if they beat Greece and Liechtenstein in Group J. A win over Greece would be enough if Armenia fail to beat Liechtenstein.
France will be on the verge of qualifying from a tight Group H if they beat Iceland and Turkey – their two main rivals for the top-two places – but a slip-up in either game could prove costly.
Poland are top of Group G but are unlikely to wrap up qualifying in this round of fixtures unless results go their way.
Sancho, who joined Dortmund from Manchester City as a 17-year-old in 2017, enjoyed a stunning breakout campaign in the Bundesliga last season.
The winger broke into the England set-up and has been touted as a transfer target for Manchester United, while Bayern have rarely been shy when it comes to pursuing Dortmund’s most valuable assets. Ribery ended a 12-year association with Bayern before joining Fiorentina on a free transfer for 2019-20.
likes of Serge Gnabry, Kingsley Coman, Thomas Muller and Robert Lewandowski, leave Bayern amply stocked in attacking areas.
“Sancho is a good player, but Bayern have enough good players in this position – where should he play?” Ribery said in an interview with Sport Bild .
“There is Muller, Gnabry, Perisic, Coman, Coutinho, Lewandowski. There is a lot of competition. I hope Sancho confirms his good year, but there would be little room for him in the Bayern squad.”
Gnabry has arguably done more than anyone to fill the void left by Ribery so far after he excelled with a remarkable four-goal haul in the 7-2 Champions League demolition of Tottenham last week.
“Serge is still young, but he has character, personality,” Ribery said. “He plays without fear.”
“After his four goals against Tottenham, more is expected, but Serge is a man, not a machine. “It’s not easy to show top performances in every game, but Serge will continue on his way without putting too much pressure [on himself].” Ribery also feels the burgeoning alliance between star striker Lewandowski and on-loan Barcelona playmaker Coutinho will continue to yield handsome returns.
Lionel Messi has had his say on the reason Barcelona collapsed at Anfield in the Champions League last season.
The Spanish giants travelled to England with a 3-0 aggregate lead after the first leg at the Nou Camp.
However, Liverpool produced a shock 4-0 win in the return fixture and went on to beat Spurs in the final.
Messi spoke to journalists Jordi Baste and Roger Saperas of El Mundo at radio station RAC1 ahead of the premiere of the show Messi10 by Cirque du Soleil .
The forward spoke openly about the defeat in Liverpool and his ambitions to reclaim the Champions League trophy after many “missed opportunities”.
He denied the accusation that Barca manager Ernesto Valverde was to blame after they crashed out of the competition against Roma and the Reds in consecutive seasons.
“The defeat against Liverpool was our fault,” said Messi. “What happened to us in that match, can not. We blocked ourselves.
“The Rome thing happened to us. It didn’t happen because of a thing with the coach.
“But neither was it my decision for him to stay, like it was said somewhere.”
The Barca star added: “I would be disappointed to spend another year without winning the Champions League.”
Messi also revealed he has not spoken to Barcelona’s President Josep Maria Bartomeu since last season.