Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP

UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate

Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Sunday’s action in the UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: USMNT injuries ahead of Italy friendly | Injuries for Italy, too ]

England 2-1 Croatia

The best rivalries in sports are the ones born out of contentious, high-stakes meetings on the field of play and the inevitable spill-over of words thereafter. Along those very lines, something of a rivalry is brewing between England and Croatia, and it’s all happened within a six-month period in 2018.

There was, of course, the two nations’ 2018 World Cup semifinal meeting in July, followed by the first of two rematches in the Nations League last month, and finally Sunday’s League A Group 4 finale. In between all of those on-field meetings, though, came the stoking of fires in the form of a verbal jab here and there.

Sunday’s clash at Wembley Stadium, which saw the Croats go ahead not long before the hour mark and appear destined for victory and the top spot in the group, only to watch their lead slip away in a late collapse, will only have added to the budding disdain between the two squads.

Andrej Kramaric put the visitors ahead int he 57th minute, but Jesse Lingard (78th) and Harry Kane (85th) brought the Three Lions back for a dramatic victory and pushed Gareth Southgate‘s to a first-place finish in the group. As such, England (7 points) joined Portugal in the final-four knockout stage.

Nearly as sweet for England, the result sends Croatia (4 points) bottom of the group, and they’ll be relegated to League B next time around.

Switzerland 5-2 Belgium

From 2-0 up, to an embarrassing 5-2 defeat, Sunday was certainly a day to forget — and an opportunity missed — for Belgium. A draw over victory against Switzerland would have seen the Red Devils finish top of League A Group 2, and they were in poll position for precisely that result after just 17 minutes, when they led 2-0 courtesy of Thorgan Hazard‘s early brace.

From that point forward, not a single thing went right for Roberto Martinez’s side as the home side score five unanswered goals from that point forward. It was 2-2 fewer than 15 minutes later — Ricardo Rodriguez and Haris Seferovic (penalty kick made it so — and Seferovic made it 3-2 just before halftime. There would be no galvanizing of the troops after the intermission, as Nico Elvedi scored his first international goal to make it 4-2 in the 62nd minute. Seferovic completed his hat trick, and the 5-2 scoreline, in the 84th.

In the end, it’s the Swiss who’ll join England and Portugal in the League A finals, by virtue of the second tiebreaker — goal differential in head-to-head matchups.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League

League B Group 3

Northern Ireland 1-2 Austria

League C Group 2

Hungary 2-0 Finland
Greece 0-1 Estonia

League D Group 2

San Marino 0-2 Belarus
Moldova 1-1 Luxembourg

Monday’s UEFA Nations League schedule

League A Group 1

Germany vs. Netherlands — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 1

Czech Republic vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League B Group 4

Denmark vs. Ireland — 2:45 p.m. ET

League C Group 3

Cyprus vs. Norway — 2:45 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Slovakia — 2:45 p.m. ET

League D Group 1

Georgia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Andorra vs. Latvia — 12 p.m. ET

League D Group 4

Macedonia vs. Gibraltar — 2:45 p.m. ET
Liechtenstein vs. Armenia — 2:45 p.m. ET

Captain Kane: England completes incredible comeback over Croatia, tops group

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With a goal and an assist, England captain Harry Kane led the England National Team to a second half comeback in a 2-1 win over Croatia on Sunday morning at Wembley Stadium.

By winning, England advanced to the UEFA Nations League finals, where they’ll meet the other group winners from League A. England finished with seven points in League A Group 4. Spain had six points while Croatia, which could have topped the group, finished with four points and will be relegated to League B.

England had the lion’s share of chances in a nearly must-win game, with only a scoreless draw keeping England alive and staving off relegation. But Croatia looked put one foot in the UEFA Nations League finals when former Leicester City forward Andrej Kramarić scored in the 57th minute. Croatia’s stalwart defense frustrated England but a pair of substitutions changed the pace and tempo of the game.

[ STREAM: Watch every PL match live ]

Jesse Lingard, moments after coming on, slid home a shot that was saved off the line by Dejan Lovren, tieing the score in the 78th minute and giving England real hope of securing a victory. The game-winning-goal came eight minutes later, as Kane stabbed home a goal off a free kick from left back Ben Chillwell. Jadon Sancho, another substitute, played a role late in pushing England forward down the right flank.

After just a few minutes of action, it looked as if England wound run away as easy winners, with Kane and Raheem Sterling linking together beautifully to get behind Croatia’s defense. But both Sterling and Kane were wasteful with their chances, and by the end of the first half, Croatia’s Ivan Peresic nearly gave England a shock with a decent chance to score.

Croatia, buoyed by its defensive display in the first half, came out with more energy in the second, eventually catching England on the counter as Kramaric scored off a deflection, the ball looping over England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. As things stood, England would be relegated while Croatia would continue their incredible 2018 calendar year.

England looked to get back into the game, but the pace and tempo was missing until coach Gareth Southgate brought on Sancho and Lingard in place of Fabian Delph and Marcus Rashford, who was lively down the left but limped off the field. It was Lingard who’d get the game-tying goal in dramatic fashion, slipping a ball across the line after a shot from Kane had been saved on the goalline.

The Three Lions continued to push and finally were rewarded with Kane’s winner in the 85th minute, holding on to secure the victory.

The game showcased all that was hoped for when UEFA came up with the Nations League concept, turning boring, friendly matches into exciting, meaningful tournament games. The experience gained by England’s players could be crucial as the side looks to prove it was no one-hit wonder from the 2018 World Cup, while Croatia may have to find some quicker defenders to deal with teams such as England, with speedy young attackers.

If this is how the Nations League continues to be in the future, then the more the merrier.

Croatia boss says he will speak with Lovren over Ramos comments

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Dejan Lovren may be in hot water with Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic after making social media comments inferring that he hit out at Spain defender Sergio Ramos during their international match this weekend.

Croatia pulled off an exciting 3-2 victory on Friday, with Tin Jedvaj scoring a 93rd minute penalty to earn the win.

After the match, Lovren, who played all 90 minutes in central defense, posted an Instagram live video from the locker room where he appears to call the Spain squad a vulgar name and suggested he elbowed Ramos during the match on purpose, saying “he got the elbow!” He also replied to a comment asking if he attacked Ramos “for Mohamed Salah” with a heart emoji.

Lovren’s club teammate Salah was injured in a clash with Ramos during the Champions League final between Liverpool and Real Madrid.

While Ramos is hated in Liverpool for his actions in May, Lovren’s comments about looking to purposely injure an opponent – any opponent – won’t sit well with his international head coach. “I will talk personally with Dejan, but that will stay between us and the squad,” Dalic said after the match. “I don’t want to talk publicly about this.”

Less controversially, Netherlands defender Virgil Van Dijk – Lovren’s center-back partner at Liverpool – praised France defender Raphael Varane after the Netherlands defeated France. In praising Varane, he also took a shot at Ramos, telling Dutch media, “He [Ramos] is a great player and I respect what he has achieved but he is not the best, he is not my type of central defender. Ramos’ team-mate at Real Madrid, Raphael Varane is my favorite. He is an excellent defender and has already won a lot.”

UEFA Nations League wrap: Batshuayi stays hot, Croatia keeps England alive

Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Belgium and Croatia picked up big wins in UEFA Nations League play on Thursday, the most notable events from the day’s action

[ MORE: USMNT player ratings | 3 things ]


Croatia 3-2 Spain

England is alive thanks to a wild second half between two World Cup powers, with Spain twice equalizing before falling victim to a goal deep in stoppage time. That goal was the second from — excellent name alert — Tin Jedvaj.

If Croatia beats England on Sunday, Croatia moves onto the semifinals. If England wins, the Three Lions move on. A scoreless draw pushes Spain onto the finals and relegates Croatia, while a scoring draw moves Croatia above England and relegates the Three Lions.

Belgium 2-0 Iceland

Why he didn’t work for Chelsea, we don’t know, but Michy Batshuayi has scored everywhere else. That includes his national team, as the Red Devils now have firm control over Group A2 with a 2-0 defeat of Iceland. A draw against Switzerland in the group finale will be enough for Belgium to reach the semifinals.

Elsewhere
Austria 0-0 Bosnia and Herzegovina
San Marino 0-1 Moldova
Luxembourg 0-2 Belarus
Andorra 1-1 Georgia
Kazakhstan 1-1 Latvia
Hungary 2-0 Estonia
Greece 1-0 Finland

UEFA Nations League: Belgium tops Switzerland on Lukaku brace

AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert
Leave a comment

A roundup of all of Friday’s action in the 2018-19 UEFA Nations League…

[ MORE: PSG want Arsene Wenger for front-office role ]

Belgium 2-1 Switzerland

Romelu Lukaku scored the 44th and 45th goals of his Belgium career (he’s already the all-time leading scorer in his country’s history, at the age of 25, 15 goals ahead of second place) on Friday, which were all the Red Devils needed to top Switzerland in League A Group 2 play.

Manchester United’s star striker opened the scoring in the 58th minute before Mario Gavranovic drew the visitors level in the 76th. The 1-1 scoreline was short-lived, though, as Lukaku bagged the eventual winner in the 84th minute. The victory makes Belgium a perfect two-for-two in group play and sends them three points clear of the second-place Swiss.

Croatia 0-0 England

A rematch of the 2018 World Cup semifinals, this should have been a worthwhile clash in League A Group 4. Instead, it saw the two sides combine for just 14 shots (5 on target) and failed to produce a memorable moment in a game played behind closed doors. Spain sit top of the group, five points clear of both England and Croatia.

Austria 1-0 Northern Ireland

Marko Arnautovic broke a scoreless deadlock in the 71st minute to hand Austria its first victory and points in League B Group 3 play. With Bosnia & Herzegovina perfect after two games and sitting on six points, a draw would have done neither side much good on Friday.

Elsewhere in UEFA Nations League action

League C Group 2

Greece 1-0 Hungary
Estonia 0-1 Finland

League D Group 2

Moldova 2-0 San Marino
Belarus 1-0 Luxembourg

Saturday’s UEFA Nations League schedule (all games start at 2:45 p.m. ET, unless noted)

League A Group 1

Netherlands vs. Germany

League B Group 1

Slovakia vs. Czech Republic — 9 p.m. ET

League B Group 4

Ireland vs. Denmark

League C Group 3

Norway vs. Slovakia — 12 p.m. ET
Bulgaria vs. Cyprus

League D Group 1

Latvia vs. Kazakhstan — 12 p.m. ET
Georgia vs. Andorra — 12 p.m. ET

League D Group 4

Armenia vs. Gibraltar — 12 p.m. ET
Macedonia vs. Lichtenstein