UEFA gives partial stadium bans to Bulgaria, Romania for fan racism

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NYON, Switzerland (AP) Bulgaria will have to close part of its national stadium for European Championship qualifiers against England and the Czech Republic because of fan racism.

UEFA issued the order, saying Bulgarian fans were racially abusive during a 2-1 loss to the Czech Republic and a 3-2 loss to Kosovo last month.

Bulgaria hosts England on Oct. 14 and the Czech Republic on Nov. 17.

Romania has also been ordered to close part of its home stadium for a future under-21 game after UEFA ruled its fans behaved in a racist manner during the European under-21 championship last month.

Another racism case against Latvia was dropped.

UEFA also handed out various fines to Romania, Ukraine, and Greece for rowdy behavior by fans.

Four Balkan countries to make joint bid to host 2030 WC

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SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) The leaders of four Balkan countries say they will make a joint bid to host the 2030 World Cup.

[ MORE: Barcelona taking “cautious” approach with Lionel Messi’s broken arm ]

The prime ministers of Bulgaria, Greece and Romania and the president of Serbia say their countries will make an official bid to host the soccer event in stadiums across the four countries.

The idea was announced on the sidelines of a regional meeting in the Black Sea resort of Varna.

[ VIDEO: Neymar, Kylian Mbappe toy with Lille; PSG go 11 points clear ]

Although the 2030 contest is not officially open, South American soccer leaders are already promoting a three-way centenary bid by Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, which was the original World Cup host in 1930.

Also, English soccer officials have launched a feasibility study into bidding in partnership with Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland.

Netherlands manager Danny Blind fired after Bulgaria loss

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The Netherlands are in real trouble, and the manager has paid the price.

The Dutch national team has parted ways with Danny Blind the day after a 2-0 loss to Bulgaria left the Dutch fourth in their World Cup qualification group halfway through.

The move garnering all the headlines from Saturday’s loss was Blind’s decision to start 17-year-old defender Matthijs de Ligt. The Ajax youth product, who has just two Eredivisie starts to his credit, made two crucial errors and yanked at halftime, but the damage had been done. Spas Delev scored twice in the opening 20 minutes for Bulgaria, and that was all the home side needed as the Dutch offered little in front of goal.

Blind was also criticized for not getting Memphis Depay on the field as they chased the game. The Netherlands held 74% possession, but could only manage 3 shots on target. Depay has been in good form since his January move to Lyon, with five goals in his 10 Ligue 1 appearances.

This decision was something Blind saw coming. He told national broadcaster NOS immediately after the Bulgaria loss, “I blame myself. It can’t go on like this. Things have to change.”

“I need to think about [my future]. I do not throw the towel in here. I’m incredibly disappointed, especially since I had a good feeling about this match. It makes sense that I put myself in front of the mirror.”

However, the problems for the Dutch go far deeper than Danny Blind. They missed out on Euro 2016 largely thanks to the failed 2nd tenure for Guus Hiddink. His assistant Blind took over, but the results have been equally as poor. The Netherlands sit fourth in UEFA World Cup qualification Group A, with losses to Bulgaria and France plus a draw with Sweden. It’s not over for them though, as they sit three points back of a second place spot with five matches to go, and three of those five at home.

With the Netherlands still yet to play their friendly against Italy this coming week, former goalkeeper Fred Grim takes over on an interim basis. Grim collected 101 caps for the Netherlands, and has served as the Netherlands U-21 manager for the last two years. Before that, he took charge of his first full managerial job as head man of Dutch 2nd-tier club Almere City.

Ludogorets 2-3 Arsenal: Ozil digs Gunners out of two-goal hole

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  • Bulgarians take 2-0 lead
  • Ozil wins it late
  • Ramsey, Ozil with assists

A shocking start gave way to at least a shred of normalcy in Bulgaria, as Arsenal came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Ludogorets Razgrad 3-2 at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia on Tuesday.

Mesut Ozil scored the match winner in the 88th minute.

The win moves Arsenal into the knockout rounds of the UEFA Champions League, and keeps the Gunners above Paris Saint-Germain on goal differential.

[ MORE: Champions League standings ]

Ludogorets struck twice before the match was 15 minutes old, as Cafu (not that one) and Claudiu Keseru (perhaps the only one) in the 11th and 15 minutes, respectively.

Granit Xhaka pulled one back for the visitors before Olivier Giroud headed an equalizer home for Arsenal. It was 2-2 at the break, and that’s how it ended in Bulgaria.

[ MORE: Full lineups, stats, box score ]

International friendlies: France, Holland honor Cruyff, Belgium; Ronaldo misses PK in loss

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An emotional night in Holland and a bad day at the office for a world legend were the standout stories from Friday’s international friendlies.

Netherlands 2-3 France

This one was more about what happened off the pitch, as the Amsterdam Arena gave a moment’s silence for the slain in Brussels before pausing the match after 14 minutes to honor the late Johan Cruyff with a full minute’s standing ovation.

Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud had already scored before that, as France jumped out to a 2-0 lead. The Dutch stormed back to tie through Luuk De Jong and Ibrahim Afellay, but Blaise Matuidi netted one minute after Ifellay to earn the win.

Portugal 0-1 Bulgaria

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo reacts after arriving late at the ball during a friendly soccer match between Portugal and Bulgaria in Leiria, Portugal, Friday, March 25, 2016. (AP Photo/Armando Franca)
(AP Photo/Armando Franca)

Ronaldo and Portugal suffered a shocking home loss to Bulgaria in a Friday friendly.

Ronaldo saw his penalty saved by Vlado Stoyanov, the same goalkeeper who stymied his PK attempt in a club match between Real Madrid and Ludogorets Razgrad in October 2014.

Ludogorets man Marcelinho scored the lone goal in the win, as Bulgaria picked up just its third win since the start of 2015. The other two came against Azerbaijan and Malta so, yeah, this was a big deal.

Ireland 1-0 Switzerland
Gabon 2-1 Sierra Leone
Luxembourg 0-3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Armenia 0-0 Belarus
Slovakia 0-0 Latvia