AP Photo/Martin Meissner

England announces roster for USMNT, Croatia matches

1 Comment

Gareth Southgate has named his 28-man roster for next week’s friendly against the United States and pivotal UEFA Nations League match with Croatia.

Dave Sarachan’s USMNT announced its roster on Tuesday.

[ MORE: Europa League wrap ]

Wayne Rooney is back with England for one final cap, while Jadon Sancho of Borussia Dortmund is the only other player on the roster not based in England.

The Three Lions seem likely to deploy their second-choice players for the match against the USMNT on Thursday, Nov. 15.

England roster in full

Goalkeepers: Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Jordan Pickford (Everton)

Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Lewis Dunk (Brighton and Hove Albion), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), Michael Keane (Everton), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), Kieran Trippier (Spurs), Kyle Walker (Man City)

Midfielders: Dele Alli (Spurs), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Fabian Delph (Man City), Eric Dier (Spurs), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Harry Winks (Spurs)

Forwards: Harry Kane (Spurs), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Wayne Rooney (DC United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund)

Walcott says Dortmund experience has England youngster Sancho ready

Getty Images
Leave a comment

18-year-old Jadon Sancho is thriving in front of Borussia Dortmund’s Yellow Wall, and for Theo Walcott, that’s enough for him to know the pressure of playing for England won’t affect the youngster at all.

Sancho, a Manchester City youth product, is playing at Dortmund after moving to Germany this summer, and has embraced his super-sub role scoring a goal and assisting six despite just one lone start this season. His stellar play has given England manager Gareth Southgate cause to bring him into the national fold, a positive experience for Sancho even if he does not see the field during Nations League matches against Croatia and Spain.

“He can deal with it, he’s been in the Dortmund dressing room, he’s played at their stadium which is fantastic,” Walcott said. “He won’t be fazed at all.”

Walcott was just 17 when he was selected to the England squad for the 2006 World Cup despite not having made a senior appearance for Arsenal in his career, and while he didn’t make an appearance in Germany, he would know what that kind of pressure is like. With Dortmund, Sancho plays at 81,000-capacity Westfalenstadion where the fans are known for their ferverous support.

Thankfully for Sancho, Walcott believes the presence of other young players will help Sancho fit in.

“It’s completely different now, there are a lot of young players in that group,” Walcott said. “When I came through there was Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard – completely established players in the team – so it’s a different environment I would say. Of course it’s still daunting but when you get down on the field and play football that’s all you want to do, you just want to play, it doesn’t matter who it’s for.”

Alongside Sancho, the young players Walcott is referring to include 20-year-old Liverpool defender Trent Alexander-Arnold, 21-year-old Leicester City playmaker James Maddison, and 22-year-old Tottenham midfielder Harry Winks

Unprecedented compliment? Winks says Messi ‘completed football’

Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Many compliments have been paid to Lionel Messi during his years as a Barcelona superstar and world soccer icon, but few have phrased it the way one of his young English opponents did on Wednesday.

[ JPW: Messi’s Wembley masterclass ]

Harry Winks, 22, went 90 minutes in Spurs’ 4-2 loss to Barcelona at Wembley on Thursday, and suffice it to say he was impressed by Messi.

Winks called Messi “the greatest player to ever play,” though he admitted he was “gutted” to lose the match after Spurs fought valiantly without Dele Alli, Christian Eriksen, and Jan Vertonghen (and with a clearly rusty Hugo Lloris).

And then he proffered this thought, via The London Evening Standard:

“The only way I can really describe [facing him] is he’s just completed football. The man just knows where everybody is. His weight of pass is just exceptional. He’s just special. But everyone who has played against him has said the same thing for years.”

For people like us who consider it an achievement to complete a difficult crossword puzzle, the idea of completing football is almost unfathomable but very well put by Winks.

Winks was called into the England squad on Thursday.

 

England calls up new faces, Southgate deal confirmed

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
1 Comment

Straight into the fire, boys.

Gareth Southgate is going to test some new faces in England’s UEFA Nations League matches in Croatia and Spain.

Confirming reports from Thursday, England also announced a new contract for Southgate which extends through the 2022 World Cup.

[ MORE: Atlanta eyes Almiron replacement ]

The FA chief executive, Martin Glenn, has lofty expectations for the program:

“We have great ambition. We will win a World Cup. We will win a Euros. We’re going to give ourselves the best possible chance with the players we have got. We want to see progress. We can feel progress. The public can sense and feel it. We want to see progress on and off the pitch.”

Derby County’s Mason Mount, Borussia Dortmund’s Jadon Sancho, Leicester City’s James Maddison, Spurs’ Harry Winks, and Watford’s Nathaniel Chalobah are the fairly unusual names in the bunch.

Luke Shaw is back in the fold, the lone Manchester United player on the roster.

Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Jordan Pickford (Everton), Alex McCarthy (Southampton), Marcus Bettinelli (Fulham).

Defenders: John Stones (Man City), Kyle Walker (Man City), Kieran Trippier (Spurs), Danny Rose (Spurs), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Joe Gomez (Liverpool), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Luke Shaw (Manchester United).

Midfielders: Eric Dier (Spurs), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Mason Mount (Derby County), Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Nathaniel Chalobah (Watford), James Maddison (Leicester City), Harry Winks (Spurs), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund).

Forwards: Harry Kane (Spurs), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Raheem Sterling (Man City)

Three things we learned: Tottenham v. Barcelona

Getty Images
Leave a comment

LONDON — Barcelona beat Tottenham Hotspur 4-2 in their UEFA Champions League Group B clash at Wembley on Wednesday, with Lionel Messi putting on a show at the home of soccer.

[ MORE: Messi’s masterclass a joy ]

After going 2-0 up Barcelona threatened to run away with things but goals from Harry Kane and Erik Lamela pulled it back to 2-1 and 3-2 before Messi finished off Spurs late on.

From Ivan Rakitic’s mind-boggling goal to Messi’s brilliance and the grit of Kane, this game had it all.

Here’s what we learned from a thrilling encounter at Wembley which will go down as a classic.


MESSI, KANE PUT ON A SHOW

Ahead of the game Harry Kane was ridiculed for saying he’d like to score more goals than Lionel Messi. Yes, Kane is still only 25 years old and has time on his side, but he will have his work cut out to get on Messi’s level.

Everybody who will play the game in the future will also be struggling to match him.

Messi scored twice at Wembley to cap off a fine individual display as he petrified Tottenham’s defense every time he dropped deep to pick the ball up and set off on yet another mesmeric run. He hit the post twice with near identical efforts at the start of the second half and it was one of those nights where the 31-year-old proved, once again, why he’s the best player on the planet.

He also loves to play against Premier League teams, as he’s scored more goals and provided more assists versus English teams than against teams from any other nation in European competitions.

At the other end Kane tried his best without his usual support acts of Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen (both injured) and he did an admirable job. He held the ball up, tracked back and ran around like a man possessed in the second half to try and get his team back in the game. What Messi had in skill, Kane matched in grit.

And, in case you are wondering, Messi has scored 562 goals in 647 games for Barcelona, with 105 in the Champions League. He has five goals in two UCL games this season, at a rate of one goal every 36 minutes. Kane has 146 for Spurs but has scored 10 goals in his 12 UCL appearances to date.

Still a long, long, long way to go for Kane, but Tottenham’s talisman stood tall on Wednesday. But unfortunately for him, so too did Barcelona’s.


RUTHLESS BARCELONA STILL HAVE ISSUES

In recent weeks there have been murmurs that Barcelona have been struggling after three games without a win in La Liga.

They were obviously saving themselves for this game. At least in terms of their attacking prowess.

Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Philippe Coutinho pressed Tottenham’s shaky back line early and they never stopped. The pressure was relentless and Barcelona’s finishing was ruthless. This looked like it would be a lesson in how you kill off a game as quickly as you can, then continue to force your opponent into awkward defensive situations.

Coutinho finished with poise after Hugo Lloris‘ rush of blood to the head early on to sprint out for a ball he was never going to get to. Then Davinson Sanchez’s cheap giveaway led to Coutinho keeping the ball in play as Rakitic hammered home a stupendous volley which will live long in the memory. Messi twice hit the post after mesmerizing runs, then finished calmly for Barca’s third as that looked to be it.

But question marks do remain about their ability to seriously challenge for the Champions League title this season, despite making it two wins from two to open up group play.

The main area Barcelona can improve is defensively. Sure, they missed the pace and dominant aerial ability of the suspended Samuel Umtiti as Harry Kane in particular bullied their back line in the second half. Marc-Andre ter Stegen came up with a big save in the first half and, generally speaking, you can assume they’d still win plenty of games even if they conceded an average of one per game due to the prowess of their attack.

Messi and Co. have been written off by many already, and after going three years without winning the Champions League, they will have to clean up their defensive deficiencies to have a real chance of winning it all in Madrid in May.


TOTTENHAM’S INJURIES ERODE FLUIDITY

It is easy to blame Spurs’ haphazard display on having key players out injured, but there’s no doubt that had a huge impact on their fluidity at both ends of the pitch as they’ve started up their UCL group stage with defeats to Inter Milan and Barcelona.

They have a tough job to get out of the group now with both Barca and Inter having six points on the board.

Kane did his job, as he usually does, in holding the ball up and trying to bring others into play, but when he dropped deeper to lay balls off, neither Eriksen or Alli were there to link up with him. Heung-Min Son, Lucas Moura and Erik Lamela were all looking for the ball in-behind and nobody was there to slot them in, even though Harry Winks put in a fine display to try and shut Barcelona down.

Losing Eriksen, Alli, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen through injury ahead of such a big night was a cruel blow for Pochettino. Yet, Spurs had chances and took two of them, and they showed real desire to try and drag themselves back into the game.

But the damage was done due to defensive errors from Lloris and Sanchez as they badly missed Vertonghen’s calming influence and Dembele’s presence in front of the back four.

Had Spurs had a fully fit squad to choose from, they could have nicked a point against Barcelona, or maybe even more.