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Grassroots refs use rock-paper-scissors to back suspended ref

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“Hundreds” of grassroots referees in the UK used rock-paper-scissors in place of the customary pre-game coin flip this weekend to show support for suspended official David McNamara.

[ MORE: Southgate: “Hungry” Harry Kane “the best goalscorer in the world ]

McNamara was banned for three weeks by the Football Association for using rock-paper-scissors before a Women’s Super League match last month. McNamara left his coin in the referees’ locker room before a Women’s Super League match and opted for a different method to determine which side would kick off first/which end the two teams would attack.

One referee in Lancashire, 19-year-old Ryan Hampson, claimed that the players asked to do rock-papers-scissors ahead of the game he was set to referee — quotes from the BBC:

“Without me saying a word, four players came up to me and said, ‘Are we getting on the rock-paper-scissors today?’ as they had seen coverage of the issue.”

Ref Support UK, an organization that backs the UK’s more than 28,000 licensed referees, issued a statement that very much straddled the fence of right and wrong, versus solidarity:

“We can’t condone anyone deliberately breaking the laws of football. However, we understand hundreds took part. The level of support should send out a message that the punishment was disproportionate.

“This suggests people are willing to face a possible charge from the FA or their county FA as they feel so strongly about it.

The Laws of the Game state, in no uncertain terms, that a coin flip must occur prior to kickoff.

200-plus players call for resignation of players’ union leader

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Citing a need for greater support of former players, more than 200 high-profile players have reportedly signed a petition calling for the resignation of Gordon Taylor, the chief executive of the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA), and a democratic vote to name his replacement.

[ MORE: Southgate: “Hungry” Harry Kane “the best goalscorer in the world ]

Taylor, who was paid a $3-million salary in 2017, has been in charge of England and Wales’ players’ union for 37 years, but has drawn a great deal of criticism in recent years. Many players are said to believe that Gordon, and the union as a whole, have not been acting in the best interest of current and former players. This is due, in large part, to the PFA receiving more than $34 million from the Premier League’s various television deals, and currently boasting a financial reserve of more than $56 million.

The Guardian claims to have obtained, and has shared parts of, a copy of the petition:

“You may have seen that Ben Purkiss (PFA chairman) has called for an independent review of the PFA. We are backing his call and would like to also call for a fair and democratic election of a new PFA chief executive. Throughout our careers we have never had a vote and this has to change. The PFA needs to be open and accessible to all. Every player should know when and how to vote, and the PFA must be run by people willing to be open, transparent and democratic. We call for Gordon Taylor to step down and allow the PFA to modernize and evolve.”

The goal of a union is not to make and keep money, the players are arguing, but to use its assets to support its members in a time of need. Whether a former player struggles with physical ailments, Alzheimer’s, mental health, the traumatic effects of sexual abuse, addiction or financial difficulties, the PFA should exhaust all of its options to support the players upon whose backs the union was built and has profited.

Southgate: ‘Hungry’ Harry Kane ‘best goalscorer in the world’

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There’s no better goalscorer in the world than Harry Kane, according to England boss Gareth Southgate.

[ MORE: UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate ]

Whether or not he’s bagging a goal every game, every other game or once every eight games — as was the case coming into Sunday’s pivotal UEFA Nations League finale against Croatia — Southgate backs a “hungry” Kane over any other forward in the world. It’s not just the goals that Kane scores, but his all-around game that allows him to impact the Three Lions in so many different ways — quotes from the Guardian:

“Harry is the best goalscorer in the world. You’re always loth to take a player off of his ability. I know people have questioned some of those decisions over the summer but he’s our main penalty-taker, our leader. In 98% of the games, his hold-up play and goalscoring is critical. He played a fantastic pass for Raheem Sterling after dropping off deep and turning in the first half. We have huge belief in him. He is so hungry to lead the team on.”

Never mind the fact that England don’t have another forward with a comparable set of skills which would allow them to play in a similar way, should Kane be dropped from the lineup for a meaningful game.

[ MORE: Lingard: Making it to Nations League finals is “what we want” ]

Kane only turned 25 this summer, and has already amassed 20 international goals in just 35 appearances (in four years since making his England debut). If he remains the first-choice no. 9 until he’s 30 — let alone a year or two beyond that — he’ll get dangerously close to breaking Wayne Rooney‘s record of 53 England goals and going down as the best the Three Lions have ever had. Prior to his recent goal-less skid, which would have reached a full eight games had he not grabbed the late winner on Sunday, those numbers stood at 19 goals in 27 appearances — clearly an unsustainable, but otherworldly goal-scoring pace.

Kane’s rise to prominence — and ultimately, superstardom — came so abruptly and unexpectedly that so many fans and pundits appear to be still waiting for the other shoe to drop on the impostor who could never actually be as good as everyone else thinks he is. After five full years of prolific goal-scoring for club and country, it’s probably time we start giving Kane a bit more benefit of the doubt.

UEFA Nations League: England reach finals; Belgium capitulate

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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

Lingard: Making it to the UEFA Nations League finals is ‘what we want’

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For the second time in five months, the England National Team is in the final four of an international competition.

England enacted some measure of revenge against Croatia on Sunday, completing an impressive 2-1 comeback victory over the World Cup finalists which beat England in the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Substitute Jesse Lingard scored the game-tying goal before Harry Kane finished the winner in the 85th minute. It’s the latest success for an England National Team program that saw its teams win the FIFA Under-17 and Under-20 World Cups in 2017.

“It’s good, this is what we want, to play against the best teams in the world, to compete against the best and show our ability,” Lingard said following the game. “For us its another test, another semifinal. We’ve learned from Russia and we know what the job at hand is.”

It was a rollercoaster of emotions as England overcame a second half deficit to advance to the finals of the UEFA Nations League. For the first 56 minutes of the match, a scoreless draw was enough for England to stave off relegation while Spain would have advanced to the finals. However, Andrej Kramaric‘s looping goal in the 57th minute took the air out of Wembley Stadium, with England then needing two goals to survive relegation themselves.

Lingard, who came on 73rd minute, made an instant difference, along with winger Jadon Sancho, and Lingard came up with the game-tying goal four minutes after coming on.

“(Southgate) was just saying, as a sub you’ve gotta change the game,” Lingard said, “and the position I play in, I’ve got to get in the box as much as possible, get forward, make forward runs and try and change the game.”

Lingard was in the area in the 85th minute as Ben Chilwell delivered a terrific left-footed free kick into the box, one that was finished by Kane, leading to wild celebrations, ones that Lingard avoided earlier due to the situation of England needing two goals. Lingard, who some have nicknamed “Worldie” due to his propensity to score terrific goals, finished with a tap-in, but he’ll take it every day of the week.

“We were speaking about it the other day, me and Marcus (Rashford), (and he said) ‘you never score tap ins’, “Lingard said, “but I’ll take them all day long.”