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EURO qualifying: France tops Iceland; England win marred by racism

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England and France made sure their EURO 2020 qualifying stayed on script, completing 6-point starts to the campaign on Monday.

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Montenegro 1-5 England

Sloppy English defending allowed Legia Warsaw man Marko Vesovic to put Montenegro ahead at Podgorica City Stadium, but the Three Lions sound found their footing.

Michael Keane scored his first England goal before Ross Barkley redirected a Callum Hudson-Odoi strike eight minutes later to give Gareth Southgate‘s men a 2-1 lead at the break.

Barkley completed his brace when Montenegro keeper Stefan Savic pushed a clearance of a Raheem Sterling cross back toward the Chelsea man. Harry Kane and Sterling also scored for the Three Lions.

Unfortunately, Danny Rose and several of his black England teammates were targeted by racists.

France 2-0 Iceland

Samuel Umtiti was the surprise goal scorer, heading home a Kylian Mbappe cross as hosts France were only able to break down Iceland on one occasion until the 68th minute.

That’s when Olivier Giroud moved into third place all-time on the French goal scoring list, behind only Michel Platini and Thierry Henry. The Chelsea man was in position to score when goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldórsson made a mess of Benjamin Pavard’s cross.

Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann would also score in the win.

Giroud has six fewer goals than Platini, and is 16 behind Henry’s 51.

Elsewhere
Portugal 1-1 Serbia — Ronaldo hurt
Kosovo 1-1 Bulgaria
Luxembourg 1-2 Ukraine
Andorra 0-3 Albania
Turkey 4-0 Moldova

Euro 2020 Roundup: France thrashes Moldova, Portugal fails to score

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France showed on Friday that it hasn’t lost its mojo, as it tore apart Moldova on the road, 4-1, in its Euro 2020 qualifying opener.

Antoine Griezmann, Raphael Varane, Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe all scored in the win for France, which jumps well ahead in the Group H standings. For Giroud, it tied him for third in all-time scoring for Les Bleus.

Elsewhere, Portugal suffered a surprising result in a scoreless draw with Ukraine. The defending European champions failed to score, despite starting Bernardo Silva and Cristiano Ronaldo up top. It’s the third straight time that Portugal has started off a qualification campaign without a win.

Here’s a look at the other scores around Euro 2020 qualifying on Friday:

Bulgaria 1-1 Montenegro

Albania 0-2 Turkey

Andorra 0-2 Iceland

Luxembourg 2-1 Lithuania

Must-See Goal: Pogba beautiful assist to Griezmann

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Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann seem to have a great relationship off the field, and that chemistry showed on the field on Friday.

Pogba produced a delightful chip into the box and Griezmann smashed home a strike on the volley to give the France National Team a 1-0 lead at the time over Moldova in UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying action. It was actually a give-and-go, as Griezmann started the move before darting into the box and scoring. But Pogba’s pass kept the entire Moldova team entranced on the ball, and Griezmann was wide open for the finish.

Perhaps Manchester United could attempt to sign Griezmann, and unite the pair at club level. Based on this goal, it may not be the worst idea, if Man United can afford Griezmann.

Watch the video below.

Why is Pogba praising Real Madrid?

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Paul Pogba appears to be keeping his options open ahead of his Manchester United contract running out in the summer of 2021, as he also has an option for a further year at Old Trafford.

The French superstar, 26, has been in fine form since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer arrived as United’s caretaker boss in December and has United in the last eight of the UEFA Champions League and in the scrap for a top four finish.

However, when asked about a possible move to Spanish giants Real Madrid ahead of France’s clash against Moldova, Pogba wasn’t exactly shy about his admiration for the club and their new manager.

“Like I’ve always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Pogba said. “There is also [Zinedine] Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football. For now, I’m at Manchester. We don’t know what the future holds. I’m at Manchester and I’m happy.”

Now, Pogba didn’t go as far as telling Zidane and Real’s club president Florentino Perez to give him or his agent a call, but you can have a fair wager on that happening in the coming months.

Why is he so outspoken about one of United’s European rivals?

Pogba has had a mixed three seasons since returning to United from Juventus, and the central midfielder has yet to sign a new long-term contract. This could be his way (with a nudge in the right direction from his agent Mino Raiola) of getting United to kick-start contract negotiations this summer, but it could simply just be a sign of his admiration for Zidane as a French national team legend. Is the pull of Zizou enough to get Pogba to swap United for Real?

If Solskjaer remains in charge at United, something Pogba has said he wants, then it is clear he will stick around and work for the manager who has given him a free role in the team and has known him since his days in the youth team and reserve squads at United. If Solskjaer doesn’t stay at United, it is clear Pogba and his representatives will be taking a look at where he can spend the prime years of his career. Given his recent form of nine goals and seven assists in 17 games under Solskjaer, Pogba’s stock is on the rise again.

These comments suggest that Pogba wants everyone to know that, and he is starting to ramp up the pressure from his side of things. Now, it will be intriguing to see if United offer him a new deal, or at least open up negotiations, this summer. Or maybe, just maybe, they could see Pogba as a player who could be sold a profit and would fuel the squad rebuild they badly need.

Pogba ‘happy’ at Manchester United; Real, Zidane ‘dream for anybody who likes football’

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Paul Pogba may want Ole Gunnar Solskjaer to stick around Old Trafford, but he didn’t say he would be there for the duration of the Norwegian’s tenure at Manchester United.

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The midfield magician has been a big part of the Red Devils’ post-Jose Mourinho turnaround, but money talks and Real Madrid is likely to spend incredible amounts of it this summer as it attempts to flip its fortunes following a domestic and European trophy-free season.

Pogba was asked about the chances of a move to Real Madrid at a press conference on Wednesday. From Goal.com:

“Like I’ve always said, Real Madrid is a dream for anyone. It’s one of the biggest clubs in the world,” Pogba said.

“There is also [Zinedine] Zidane as a coach and it’s a dream for anybody who likes football. For now, I’m at Manchester. We don’t know what the future holds. I’m at Manchester and I’m happy.”

It stands to reason that Pogba likes football, and he would team-up with a fellow French World Cup winner in Zidane (not to mention his purchase may inspire Raphael Varane to stay… and Kylian Mbappe to join).

The problem Real will run into, though, is Financial Fair Play. The Galacticos that Florentino Perez demand cost more money than ever before. With Pogba, Eden Hazard, and many others linked with Real, how much can they afford to spend before getting in trouble?

Going back to Pogba liking Solskjaer’s understanding of what United is all about, wouldn’t he know this is the sort of talk which would get Sir Alex Ferguson on the phone with Real? No one is bigger than the club? It will be interesting to see how these comments are received by the United public and club itself.