Marcus Rashford

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Southgate praises rising star, possible no. 1 Pickford

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With fewer than three months to the start of the 2018 World Cup, the majority of Gareth Southgate‘s England squad has largely sorted itself over the course of the current Premier League season.

[ MORE: New USMNT kits for 2018 World Cup ]

With everyone healthy and available — a big ask, granted — the likes of Kyle Walker, John Stones, Danny Rose, Jordan Henderson, Eric Dier, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane practically pick themselves for the starting 11, with Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford and Jamie Vardy having secured significant roles off the bench.

One position, however, which remains far from set in stone is the man in goal. Joe Hart has long since fallen from his former place as the cemented no. 1, meanwhile Jack Butland and Fraser Forster failed to make the most of their sporadic chances over the course of the last couple years.

[ MORE: France blow a lead, lose to Colombia; England top Holland ]

Enter: Jordan Pickford, who started and played all 90 minutes — and massively impressed Southgate — in the Three Lions’ 1-0 victory over Holland. Southgate singled out the 24-year-old Everton goalkeeper for praise following the game, remarking that Pickford’s ability to start the process of playing the ball out of the back “allows [England] to play in a different way” — quotes from BT Sport:

“He transferred what we know he can do into an important game, a game away from home, so that was good for him.

“I think (it was) not the test that we faced in November (friendlies against Germany and Brazil) in terms of the pressure on our defense and the experience of the players.

“But, nevertheless, I think that’s 11 clean sheets from our 16 games and that gives us a good base to build from.”

“I think it allows you to play in a different way. There are moments where the goalkeeper or a defender can come and put the ball into the stand or play it forward hopefully.

“But if you can play with composure and play through and out of pressure then it (eases) off the opposition in terms of their pressure and eventually they stop running and you have more time in different areas of the field. The profile of all of that defense and goalkeeper allowed us to do that.”

Don’t look now, but this appears to be the most settled and established England side heading into a major tournament… well, probably in my lifetime. What if England are good — or, worse — really good?

Five things learned from internationals

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With a plethora of international friendlies taking place across globe on Friday, we learned plenty about where the teams heading to the 2018 World Cup are it in their preparation for the big dance in Russia this summer.

[ MORE: International wrap

In case you weren’t scouring the globe at obscene hours to stay in touch with all the action, we were.

Here’s what we learned.

South American teams in fine fettle

CONMEBOL went five for five on Friday with wins for Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Peru and Colombia. There is no doubt that South America will once again dominate at the World Cup this summer. Brazil dealt easily with Russia without Neymar as Miranda, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho scored in the second half as they continue their fine run. Argentina didn’t start Lionel Messi or Sergio Aguero against Italy at the Etihad Stadium but ran out 2-0 winners with goals from Maneul Lanzini (his first for his nation) and Ever Banega getting the job done. Plenty of starters were rested at the 2014 runners up look incredibly strong. Plus, they don’t have to worry about losing out to Chile like they have in the last two Copa America tournaments.

Uruguay’s stars shone against the Czech Republic with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani on target in China, while Colombia’s fine comeback in France stole the show. Trailing 2-0 with 26 minutes gone, Colombia scored two late goals via Radamel Falcao and Juan Quintero to grab the victory in Paris. A fit Falcao will make a huge difference to Los Cafeteros’ chances of getting past the last eight this time out. Peru, who will be at their first World Cup since 1982 this summer, completed a fine showing for the five CONMEBOL teams who qualified the World Cup this summer as they beat Croatia 2-0. For those who are still shocked that Chile won’t be going to the World Cup this summer, these results prove just how strong South America has become.

England mature in 3-4-3 formation

Okay, the 1-0 win in Amsterdam was against a very poor Netherlands outfit who are in transition, haven’t qualified for the last two major tournaments and Ronald Koeman has a massive rebuilding job on his hands. But still, England were extremely impressive. The way Gareth Southgate‘s men moved the ball around in a 3-4-3 formation proved they are developing well and Kyle Walker as a right-sided center back was a revelation. Without the injured Harry Kane, the Three Lions did lack a bit of cutting edge up front but Raheem Sterling and Marcus Rashford were so dangerous on the break and the main takeaway was the balance of this team and the composure on the ball of the defenders. Jesse Lingard (who scored his first international goal), John Stones, Jordan Henderson and Jordan Pickford all staked their claims for a starting spot this summer as England are unbeaten in seven games and haven’t conceded in their last five, including the last three against Germany, Brazil and Holland. Whisper it: England could be the darkhorses this summer.

Germany, Spain the real deals

The class of these two teams suggests that they will go far this summer. The reigning World Cup champs equalized through Thomas Muller’s stunning goal after Rodrigo popped up (after Andres Iniesta’s perfect pass) to put Spain ahead early on in a high tempo, high quality encounter. This is just the kind of tune-up both teams needed as Joachim Low and Julen Lopetegui have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal. Both teams were close to full strength and this underlined their status as favorites to win the World Cup this summer. Germany haven’t lost in their last 22 games, while Spain hasn’t lost in 17 as the past two World Cup champs have not only got veterans in fine form but are also bringing through the next wave of talent. Also, Germany have Manuel Neuer to return from injury, while Spain will rely on Diego Costa getting back to his best to spearhead their attack this summer. Still, this was a hugely impressive display from both teams as Spain host Argentina in Madrid next week and Germany play Brazil in Berlin. Those four teams are surely the current favorites to win it all.

Ronaldo remains red-hot as Egypt impress

23 goals in his last 12 games for club and country. 23. Cristiano Ronaldo is in fine form after a slow start to the season where many questioned if he had turned the corner and had entered the final stretch of his legendary career. Not so fast. Portugal’s man main throughout his career, Ronaldo, now 33, popped up twice in stoppage time in Zurich, Switzerland to seal a comeback 2-1 win against an impressive Egypt side. Mohamed Salah (of course) got Egypt’s goal as the Pharaohs look forward to their first World Cup since 1990 and are set to be the darlings of the tournament this summer. Yet Ronaldo spoiled their party on Friday as he scored two bullet headers for the reigning European champs, with the winner looked at by VAR but correctly allowed. Will Ronaldo retire after the World Cup this summer? Portugal will hope he can go on for at least another four years and at this rate he will continue to deliver up until, and during, the 2022 World Cup.

Mexico ticking over nicely

El Tri beat Iceland 3-0 on Friday as an experimental side proved just how strong they are with Juan Carlos Osorio making plenty of changes as Mexico strolled to victory in front of 68,917 fans in Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. Marco Fabian struck a beautiful free kick in the first half and Miguel Layun added two goals after the break to beat Iceland, with The Vikings heading to its first-ever World Cup this summer as the smallest nation to ever quality. For Mexico, they will be hoping to continue their development under Osorio as the oft-maligned coach has won 30 of his 45 games in charge since taking over in 2015. Not bad, Juan Carlos. El Tri had Javier Hernandez, Hirving Lozano, Hector Herrera and Carlos Vela all on the bench as they will all likely play against Croatia on Tuesday in Texas. For Mexico, their World Cup opener against Germany is their toughest game of the group stage but Osorio must be pleased with the options at his disposal and the performance of goalkeeper Jesus Corona to keep out Iceland, who did create chances with direct play, was impressive. Mexico is humming along nicely as it heads to the World Cup aiming to make the knockout rounds once again.

FA Cup, Live: Man United v. Brighton in quarterfinal

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Manchester United host Brighton & Hove Albion at Old Trafford on Saturday (3:45 p.m. ET) for a place in the FA Cup semifinals.

[ LIVE: Follow United-Brighton ]

Jose Mourinho has launched a defense of his time in charge of United after they crashed out of the UEFA Champions League against Sevilla in midweek and despite the Red Devils sitting in second, this is their last chance of securing any silverware this season.

In team news Man United have Paul Pogba and Alexis Sanchez on the bench, with Ashley Young and Marcus Rashford also subs and Sergio Romero starting in goal as David De Gea is rested for the domestic cup game as has been the policy this season.

Brighton have Glenn Murray on the bench, while January signings Jurgen Locadia and Leonardo Ulloa start together up top.


Manchester United: Romero; Valencia, Bailly, Smalling, Shaw; Matic, McTominay; Mata, Lingard, Martial; Lukaku. Subs: De Gea, Lindelof, Young, Fellaini, Pogba, Sanchez, Rashford.

Brighton: Krul; Suttner, Dunk, Duffy, Schelotto; Kayal, Propper, March, Gross; Locadia, Ulloa. Subs: Maenpaa, Bruno, Goldson, Sanders, Izquierdo, Baldock, Murray.

Four uncapped players named in Southgate’s England squad

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Gareth Southgate has decided to take a look at some up and coming names in his final training camp with friendlies before the 2018 World Cup.

Burnley pair James Tarkowski and Nick Pope, Swansea City’s Alfie Mawson and Bournemouth’s Lewis Cook were all named on Thursday to Gareth Southgate’s 27-man squad set to meet up at St. George’s Park next week. England visits the Amsterdam Arena to face the Netherlands on March 23 before returning home to Wembley Stadium to take on Italy on March 27. Perhaps coincidentally, though both historical powers, neither the Netherlands or Italy will be at the 2018 World Cup, making these interesting games from a preparation approach.

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

There have been plenty of calls for Southgate to give the likes of Mawson, Pope and Tarkowski a look, while Lewis Cook has excelled with Bournemouth this season and looks to make the jump after appearing numerous times for the Three Lions at youth level.

There are plenty of veterans in this squad as well. West Ham’s Joe Hart, coming off a rough performance at club level, earned a call-up, and the likes of Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson, Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling and Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere have more than 30 caps each to their name.

Coming off a two-goal performance in the Premier League for Manchester United, Marcus Rashford makes the squad as a forward along with Danny Welbeck and Jamie Vardy.

Notable absences include the injured Harry Kane, Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Jermain Defoe, as Southgate looks to test his fringe players on who will make the plane to Russia.

PL roundup: Man Utd best Liverpool; Newcastle safe?

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Get caught up on all seven Premier League fixtures from Saturday…

[ MORE: Watch full PL match replays ]

Manchester United 2-1 LiverpoolFULL RECAP

It wasn’t pretty — is it ever with Jose Mourinho? — but Man United rode a pair of early Marcus Rashford goals to all three points and reclamation of the steering wheel in the race for second place. Rashford scored after 14 and 24 minutes, at which point United gladly handed over the vast majority of possession (Liverpool finished with 68 percent, at Old Trafford), but the Red Devils held firm outside of Eric Bailly‘s own goal in the 66th minute. With eight games still to play, United lead Liverpool by five points (Tottenham Hotspur could get back to within four with a win on Sunday).

Chelsea 2-1 Crystal PalaceFULL RECAP

Antonio Conte‘s Chelsea snapped a two-game losing skid with a narrow home victory over Crystal Palace, courtesy of a slow roller from Willian and a Martin Kelly own goal inside the first 32 minutes at Stamford Bridge. Patrick Van Aanholt brought the visitors back to 2-1 in the 90th minute, the Blues held on to win for just the second time in six PL outings. They trail Tottenham by two points, having already played one more game than Spurs.

West Ham United 0-3 BurnleyFULL RECAP

West Ham’s season has gone from bad, to worse, to this has to be the worst it can get, right? Saturday’s 3-0 home defeat to seventh-place Burnley saw the London Stadium devolve into a set of truly ugly scenes, as fan violence and protests became the main storyline. Chris Wood scored twice in the second half, to go with another goal from Ashley Barnes, all in the span of 15 second-half minutes.

Newcastle United 3-0 SouthamptonFULL RECAP

Back in August — and September, and October, and probably November, too — Newcastle United seemed a surefire lock for relegation from the PL. Fast-forward to early March, and Rafa Benitez has somehow — masterfully — managed to guide the Magpies to 13th place in the league table, a full five points clear of 18th place. Southampton, on the other hand, are just one place and one point clear of the drop zone after a brace from Kenedy and a third from Matt Ritchie dropped Saints to four games without a win on Saturday.

West Bromwich Albion 1-4 Leicester CityFULL RECAP

West Brom aren’t likely to realize the same rescue from relegation that Newcastle have enjoyed, as Alan Pardew‘s side currently sits bottom of the league, eight points away from safety, after another humiliating defeat at home, this time to eighth-place Leicester. Jamie Vardy, Riyad Mahrez, Kelechi Iheanacho and Vicente Iborra got the goals after Salomon Rondon had put the Baggies 1-0 up after eight minutes.

Everton 2-0 Brighton & Hove AlbionFULL RECAP

Speaking of sides who managed to rebound after a torrid start to the season, Everton have reclaimed their (apparent) birthright as a top-half side following Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Brighton. Gaetan Bong put the Seagulls behind with an own goal on the hour mark, followed by an insurance goal for the Toffees courtesy of Cenk Tosun.

Huddersfield Town 0-0 Swansea CityFULL RECAP

15th-place Huddersfield and 14th-place Swansea played to perhaps the most lopsided 0-0 draw in the history of soccer after Jordan Ayew was sent off in the 11th minute.

Sunday’s PL schedule

Arsenal vs. Watford — 9:30 a.m. ET, on NBCSN and
Bournemouth vs. Tottenham Hotspur — 12 p.m. ET, on

Monday’s PL schedule

Stoke City vs. Manchester City — 4 p.m. ET, on NBCSN and