England inspire nation as Premier League stars shine

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England have reached their first World Cup semifinal since 1990 and in doing so they’ve inspired an entire nation to once again believe in their national team.

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After plenty of heartbreak over the past five decades since their only major trophy, the World Cup in 1966, England is united behind the Three Lions.

Ahead of the 2018 World Cup tournament, nobody either at home or abroad gave Gareth Southgate‘s young side much hope of advancing to the latter stages.

But with the Three Lions, the youngest team left in the competition, facing Croatia in Moscow on Wednesday for a place in the final, an entire nation is behind their likable, hard-working squad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“Football’s Coming Home” is the new mantra for every English man and woman, even if many started signing it ironically as they didn’t believe this would be the case at all. The song, originally released to help England win on home soil at EURO ’96, has now surged back to the top of the charts in the UK amid the patriotic euphoria surrounding captain Harry Kane and Co.

“It’s amazing to meet any heroes from ’66 and it gives you so much inspiration, obviously it’s been a long time since England have done well in a major tournament,” Kane said. “As a player and as a professional I know that I have a job, on and off the pitch, to inspire people and inspire kids watching this tournament. It’s amazing because I was one of those kids growing up who wanted to play for England. So to be here now, leading this team out, I’m so proud.”

Pride. Unity. Respect. All three have been forthcoming in recent weeks as England’s youngster have eased into the semifinals in Russia. Most of their fans have looked on delighted, yet slightly bemused, as all they’ve known is heartache and disappoint as the “golden generation” of David Beckham, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard came and went without a trip past the last eight of a major tournament.

On the streets of England the words “it’s coming home” is being muttered, yelled and sung by millions as the Three Lions, for once, have inspired a nation with huge watch parties up and down the land leading to pints of beer flying into the sky in celebration time and time again.

Even Southgate, who got the England job after being promoted from the U-21 boss following Sam Allardyce’s disgraceful sacking, has become a symbol of hope as his kind, courteous demeanour has been a breath of fresh air. He looks, and acts, like your favorite uncle as his waistcoats have become legendary and #GarethSouthgateWould sums up his character perfectly.

With England, and the rest of the UK, currently embroiled in political turmoil regarding Brexit and a deteriorating relationship with Russia, the national team have brought the nation together at least for a few weeks.

Southgate hit the nail on the head when he spoke about England fans from different backgrounds now feeling that this is their team with his players representative of the multi-cultural British society.

“We are a team with our diversity and with our youth that represents modern England,” Southgate said. “In England we’ve spent a bit of time being a bit lost as to what our modern identity is and I think as a team we represent that modern identity, and hopefully people can connect with us.”

And it’s not just the English national team who have benefited from fielding youngsters used to playing in the hustle and bustle of the Premier League.

Both Belgium and France, who face off in the other semifinal in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday, have been led by young squads, many of whom flourish week in, week out in England’s top-flight.

In total there are 41 Premier League players remaining at the World Cup out of a total of 92 players. That’s quite remarkable.

England have 23 PL players. Belgium have 12. France five. Croatia one.

When you look at the Europe’s other top leagues, 12 players from La Liga remain, plus nine from the Bundesliga, 12 from Ligue 1 and eight from Serie A. The Premier League has been one of the biggest winners from this World Cup, as stars such as Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Paul Pogba and Hugo Lloris have shone.

Tottenham Hotspur has more players remaining at the World Cup than any other club on the planet with nine and you can point to the likes of Jurgen Klopp, Pep Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino mangaging in the Premier League in having a huge impact on how England have fared due to their faith in giving young English players a chance to shine.

The financial muscle of the Premier League makes it tough for young Englishman to break through, but we are starting to see that the ones who do make it are not only worthy of their spot on the national stage but also the global one.

England have given their nation reason to dream and the Premier League stars who litter the final four will make sure those dreams continue to be met in stadiums across the country for the 2018/19 campaign and beyond.

Even if football isn’t coming home, the state of the English national team and the Premier League is very healthy indeed.


Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.

Ramos announces U.S. U-20 World Cup qualifying roster

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Tab Ramos announced the 20 men tasked with leading the United States to another U-20 World Cup through qualifying next month in Florida.

[ USWNT: Surgery for O’Hara ]

Goalkeeper Brady Scott is the lone returning member of the team which won the 2017 CONCACAF Championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 World Cup in South Korea.

The U-20 World Cup is this summer in Poland.

Several players have MLS minutes under their belts, including promising Jaylin Lindsey of Sporting KC and Mark McKenzie of Philadelphia. McKenzie, 19, could miss some of the Union’s playoff run, having started the side’s last four matches at center back.

Ayo Akinola, 18, is also one of the headliners, having scored five goals in the USL and nabbing a goal and an assist in six matches for Toronto FC.

There are four college players and six youngsters based overseas.

U.S. U-20 roster for CONCACAF Championship

Goalkeepers: 1-Brady Scott (FC Koln), 12-CJ Dos Santos (S.L Benfica).

Defenders: 2-Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC), 3-Chris Gloster (Hannover 96), 4-Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), 5-Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union), 14-Manny Perez (NC State), 16-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), 19-Sam Rogers (Seattle Sounders).

Midfielders: 6-Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), 7-Juan Pablo Torres (K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen), 8-Alex Mendez (SC Freiburg), 10-Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), 15-Anthony Fontana (Philadelphia Union), 18-Isaac Angking (New England Revolution).

Forwards: 9-Justin Rennicks (Indiana University), 11-Ulysses Llanez (Unattached), 13-Griffin Dorsey (Indiana University), 17-Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), 20-Frankie Amaya (UCLA)

USWNT’s O’Hara begins World Cup prep with surgery, 8-12 weeks out

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Kelley O’Hara is set for some time on the mend as the United States women’s national team begins its preparation for this summer’s World Cup.

O’Hara, 30, will miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove “loose bodies” in her ankle, according to a U.S. Soccer press release.

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That means the 112-times capped defender will not play in next month’s newly-announced European friendlies against Portugal and Scotland.

“It’s all good. These kinds of things come with the territory,” O’Hara said. “This is just the best time to get the procedure done so I’m one hundred percent heading into 2019 and physically ready to perform at the level I want to and need to. It’s a bummer that I won’t get to Europe, but the most important thing is to be healthy for next year.”

O’Hara scored in the 2015 World Cup semifinal, and has an Olympic gold to go with that tournament title. She’s won two SheBelieves Cups and three Algarve Cups.

Man United arrive late (again) for Juventus game

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Manchester United do not travel well. Even in Manchester. Traffic sucks.

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The Red Devils arrived at Old Trafford just 52 minutes before kick off for their huge UEFA Champions League group stage clash against Juventus on Tuesday.

Juve’s team bus also arrived late and United’s manager Jose Mourinho revealed he arrived at the stadium by jumping off the bus then walking among the fans, while wearing a hoodie so nobody would recognize him.

What is all this about?

United turned up late for their last UCL home game against Valencia and were subsequently fined by UEFA as the kick off was delayed with their bus stuck in traffic in Manchester.

Even though United switched hotels to be even closer to Old Trafford ahead of this massive game against Juve, the players were still stuck in traffic for 45 minutes extra as Mourinho said his walk from the hotel to the stadium took two minutes. Of course, the whole United squad could not have walked through the 75,000 fans heading to the game amid safety fears, so something needs to be done to address this situation. Traffic in Manchester is bad, but it is not that bad.

Plus, it appears someone did spot Mourinho…

UCL, LIVE: Man United v. Juventus headlines action

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The pivotal third round of the UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday, with teams across Europe ready to either push on towards the Round of 16 or kiss goodbye to their dreams of being crowned champions of the continent for at least another season.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There is no doubting where the big game is, as Manchester United host Juventus at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to his old club. Jose Mourinho’s United have struggled in the Premier League this season but a win against Italian powerhouse Juve would surely set them back on the right path.

Elsewhere, Manchester City head to Shakhtar Donetsk knowing they need a win after losing their opening UCL group game against Lyon which put them in a spot of bother.

Struggling Real Madrid are in action as the three-time reigning European champions are expected to waltz by Viktoria Plzen, but they did lose to CSKA Moscow last time out.

Click on the link above to follow the action live. Below is the look at the full schedule for Tuesday, with all games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET.


Tuesday

Group E
Ajax v. Benfica

Group F
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City
Hoffenheim v. Lyon

Group G
Real Madrid v. Viktoria Plzen
Roma v. CSKA Moscow

Group H
Manchester United v. Juventus