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England’s embarrassing exit leaves future in ruins

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NICE — I’m a proud Englishman but there is no point letting the dust settle. Let’s tell it like it is.

In a week which has already seen England become a comedic figure due to the handling of Brexit, another European exit marked the most embarrassing night in English national team history. Period.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

Let me state that Iceland deserved their victory. I don’t mean to take anything away from the smallest ever nation to compete in the Euros. They battled hard to go ahead after England went 1-0 up and the woeful Three Lions couldn’t break them down, just as we’ve seen throughout this tournament despite having the majority of possession and the second most shots (82) at EURO 2016.

Hodgson, England’s manager, resigned as he walked in to his post-match press conference and rattled off his statement of resignation.

It should have said: England is in ruins. This is not a knee jerk reaction. It has been coming.

Speaking briefly to the media on Tuesday in a hastily arranged press conference to mark the end of England’s tournament, Hodgson couldn’t hide how catastrophic the defeat to Iceland had been.

“One particularly bad game has caused a lot of damage to me personally and the team going forward,” Hodgson said. “We have a major bridge to repair – had we played better last night that might not need repairing.”

Now a new era will arrive this summer and Hodgson, 68, has left behind a mess.

[ MORE: Iceland “shocked the world” ]

True, this squad has plenty of talented players but what we saw from England at EURO 2016 is that they can’t apply that talent when it matters most. At major tournaments. England has a young team — in fact, they have the youngest average age of a starting XI in the tournament this summer — and this result could ruin them.

When they resume play in the Premier League in six weeks time, these England players will be booed and ridiculed. It could last some time too. Plus, England games will see lots of empty seats and some may never recover from this or play for England again.

After their worst-ever World Cup campaign in 2014 under Hodgson and now this, England have now failed to win a knockout game at a major tournament for 10 years. That wait will extend to at least 12 years and that’s only if — a big if judging by this summer — the Three Lions qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Who knows what kind of psychological damage a defeat like this, to a nation ranked 133rd in the world four years ago, can have.

It wasn’t so much that it was a defeat, it was the manner of it.

Fans booed Harry Kane repeatedly following his woeful set pieces, they were quiet throughout and also sung the song below at the final whistle as England’s dejected squad fell to their knees on the pitch in front of them. After the game, England’s fans were stunned. Around Nice they shook the hands of Iceland fans and congratulated them. They knew they had lost to a team who wanted it more.

The abuse England’s players received from the fans could be scarring. Did they deserve it? Probably not to that extent, but their display was devoid of the quality and fight expected in a knockout game.

One thing is clear: Hodgson’s decision to hand Wayne Rooney the keys let him down once again. Rooney, 30, put in his worst display in an England shirt. His touch was heavy. He gave the ball away. He put teammates under pressure. England’s all-time leading goalscorer was awful in a deeper position in central midfield. Okay, everyone can have an off day. But for your captain and talisman to put in such an awful display when his country truly needed him, it only acted to accentuate everything wrong with England.

The midfield look disjointed. The defense switched off less than 60 seconds after going ahead as Aron Gunnarsson‘s long throw was flicked on and then flicked in as Kyle Walker slept at the back post. Up top, Raheem Sterling was hooked off after running down blind alleys and Daniel Sturridge looked disinterested out wide as Kane battled but was way off target up top. England looked jaded, lethargic and mentally beaten.

All the pressure leading up to the game was on them and it showed. Massively.

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Roy Hodgson manager of England looks on prior to the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

This England team didn’t even have the lofty expectations thrust onto them like past generations. The so-called “golden generation” under Sven-Goran Eriksson at least made the quarterfinals of major tournaments… then went out on penalty kicks in heartbreaking fashion.

It is time for a reality check. England has won just six of its 20 knockout games in major tournaments since they won their one and only major title, the World Cup in 1966. Expectations need to be altered. England cannot compete with Germany, Argentina and others, no matter how many resources it continues to pump into its national team. England expects — as I wrote about earlier today — but it shouldn’t.

Joe Hart, England’s goalkeeper who also had a stinker alongside Rooney as he somehow let Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s game-winner squirm through him, was blunt when assessing where this team is at, how they will be remembered and where they’re heading.

“As a group it is down to us. All the plans are put in place, we knew everything about Iceland but ultimately we didn’t perform. Personally I didn’t perform,” Hart said. “It’s not a question of wanting it, there’s nothing we want more. They are just words though. We were in a good place but we haven’t done it. We will get a lot of flak and we deserve it. We will learn from this and try and bring English football back to where it belongs. We have been put it in a low place. We just couldn’t find a way back into the game. The next manager has a tough job on his hands. We worked hard but with no success. That is how this team will be remembered.”

This team probably won’t be remembered at all. It’s harsh, but true.

By crashing out to Iceland, this young group have extinguished all of the promise the nation had in them and it will be a long, hard road back from this painful European exit.

With Hodgson out, his successor is not clear. Will U-21 manager Gareth Southgate be promoted? Can Eddie Howe or Alan Pardew be tempted out of Premier League jobs? Judging by the players they have to work with and the state the program will be in, it would be a huge gamble for either.

NICE, FRANCE - JUNE 27: Aron Gunnarsson of Iceland and Jack Wilshire of England compete for the ball during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between England and Iceland at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 27, 2016 in Nice, France. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
(Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Yes, the English national team is still among the most glamorous in the world. The English Football Association proudly backs itself as the home of the game and that helps to keep a certain allure. That, plus a large salary for its manager. But make no mistake about it, this is a monumental job. Any headway Hodgson had made over the past four years has been lost and a huge rebuild awaits whoever is brave enough to take it on.

England has been on the brink of disappearing from among the world’s elite for many years. After this summer, if feels like it has.

The future of the national team, much like the country, is in ruins.

Transfer news: Werner to Chelsea; Sanchez to Inter

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In the latest transfer news Timo Werner is reportedly being chased by Chelsea, while Alexis Sanchez could be staying at Inter Milan instead of returning to Man United.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

First up, a juicy report from Bild says that Chelsea defender Antonio Rudiger is trying to convince his Germany teammate and close friend Timo Werner to join hm at Stamford Bridge.

Werner, 24, has dazzled at RB Leipzig this season (31 goals in 40 games in all competitions) and is widely expected to leave with Liverpool, Man United and many others clubs across Europe chasing his signature. Per the report, Chelsea have Rudiger working hard to convince his friend and former Stuttgart teammate that west London is the place for him.

The release clause on Werner’s current contract is said to be $60 million and Chelsea are one of the few clubs who have a healthy transfer budget as they had a transfer ban for a whole year and Frank Lampard has just spent $44 million on one new signing so far, bringing in Hakim Ziyech who will not arrive until later this summer.

Werner is exactly what Chelsea need. They have created so many golden goalscoring opportunities and although Tammy Abraham was putting them away at the start of the season, his form and fitness was a concern in the last few months before the suspension.

Olivier Giroud is their only other forward option and Werner would be perfect to finish off the chances this attack-minded Chelsea team create. Even better for him, he would actually play at Chelsea which may not be the case at Liverpool and Man United given their stacked attacking lineups.

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Heading to Manchester, it appears Alexis Sanchez may not be going back to his parent club next season.

Sanchez, 31, is on loan at Inter Milan for the 2019-20 season and the Daily Express claim that he could stay at Inter rather than heading back to Old Trafford despite Ole Gunnar Solskjaer previously saying he was open to the idea. Per the report, Man United are keen to loan Sanchez out to Inter once again on a similar arrangement and the Serie A side are willing to see how Sanchez does when the season restarts in a few weeks. With Marcus Rashford, Bruno Fernandes, Anthony Martial, Mason Greenwood and others around at Man United, he may struggle for minutes at Man United.

Would another loan be a good move for Inter?

Romelu Lukaku and Lautaro Martinez have been their main strikers this season under Antonio Conte, with Sanchez out injured for large chunks of the campaign and then doing okay when he did play. However, with Martinez chased by Barcelona, if they do sell the Argentine forward for over $115 million, having Sanchez around on loan would soften the blow.

The main problem with Sanchez is that over the last three years he has picked up consistent injury problems. If he can shake those issues off, we all know he is capable of scoring goals and creating havoc. Given this recent track record though, that’s a big if, as he’s scored just one goal and added three assists in 15 outings for Inter this season.

Premier League confirm zero positive COVID-19 test results

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Following the latest batch of tests on players and club staff the Premier League have revealed that zero out of 1130 COVID-19 tests taken on Thursday and Friday have come back positive.

Zero.

The fourth round of testing is the first time that no positive tests have come back, as a total of 3,882 COVID-19 tests have now been carried out with 12 positive results.

All players and staff at Premier League clubs will be tested twice a week during the strict return to training protocols put in place, as full contact training is now up and running and a restart date of June 17 has been set.

Here is the statement from the Premier League in full:


The Premier League can today confirm that on Thursday 28 May and Friday 29 May, 1130 players and club staff were tested for COVID-19. Of these, zero have tested positive.

The Premier League is providing this aggregated information for the purposes of competition integrity and transparency. No specific details as to clubs or individuals will be provided by the League and results will be made public after each round of testing.

Previous test results

Round 1: 17-18 May – 748 tested, with six testing positive from three clubs.
Round 2: 19-22 May – 996 tested, with two testing positive from two clubs.
Round 3: 25-26 May – 1,008 tested, with four testing positive from two clubs.


This is more good news for the Premier League as the UK government gave the green light for elite sport in the UK to return from June 1 in empty stadiums, as the top-flight of English soccer continues to clear each hurdle in its way to finishing the final 92 games of the 2019-20 season.

With just over two weeks to go until the action returns, Premier League clubs will have to keep these test results low for the restart to take place.

Bayern Munich batter Fortuna, go 10 points clear at the top (video)

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Bayern Munich are waltzing their way to an eight-straight Bundesliga title as they battered Fortuna Dusseldorf 5-0 on Saturday at the Allianz Arena to record an eight-straight win in the German top-flight.

[ MORE: Schalke lose again; Saturday recap ]

An own goal, two from Robert Lewandowsk and a goal each from Benjamin Pavard and Alphonso Davies did the damage to Fortuna as Bayern Munich are now just three wins away from securing the title, as they have five games left in the season.

Hansi Flick has now won 22 of his 25 games in charge of Bayern Munich after he took charge in November with the German giants struggling under Niko Kovac. Now, they are rampant and are one of the favorites to win the UEFA Champions League.

The Bavarian giants dominated early on as USMNT midfielder Alfredo Morales made an important clearance but Mathias Jorgensen was so lucky a few moments later.

[ MORE: Bundesliga schedule, stats

A ball into the box found Benjamin Pavard and his scuffed effort was going wide before it hit Jorgensen and went into his own goal.

Bayern then doubled their lead as Thomas Muller’s shot was pushed wide and from the resulting corner Pavard nodded home to make it 2-0.

Lewandowski made it 3-0 before the break as he has now scored against all of the current Bundesliga clubs and had previously gone without a goal in five outings against Fortuna.

Kimmich’s surging round saw the loose ball find Muller and his pass to Lewandowski was perfect as he swept home to an empty net.

Lewandowski was at it again just a few minutes after the break as he finished off a slick Bayern move as the Bavarian giants put their foot on the accelerator.

Alphonso Davies made it 5-0 as he bulldozed his way through the Fortuna defense and slotted home, while Muller and Pavard went close to adding a sixth and Fortuna had the odd chance on the break.

In the end, the victory was as routine as possible for Bayern Munich who have more than one hand on the Bundesliga title.

USMNT’s Weston McKennie honors George Floyd with armband

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Schalke and USMNT midfielder Weston McKennie has released a statement after he wore a personalized armband with the message ‘Justice for George’ on it to honor George Floyd.

McKennie, an American international who has played in the Bundesliga for the last four seasons at Schalke, was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. He wore the armband in Schalke’s defeat at home to Werder Bremen on Saturday.

Following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN on Monday there have been widespread protests across the USA. A video showed former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, putting his knee on George Floyd’s neck for more than 8 1/2 minutes. Chauvin was arrested Friday and charged with murder, authorities confirmed.

Weston McKennie released the following statement after wearing the armband at the weekend to honor George Floyd:

“To be able to use my platform to bring attention to a problem that has been going on to long feels good!!! We have to stand up for what we believe in and I believe that it is time that we are heard! #justiceforgeorgefloyd #saynotoracism

Here is a photo of McKennie wearing the armband which he put on before the game kicked off and wore on his left arm.