Kosovo

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EURO 2020 qualifying wrap: Ronaldo puts up four v. Lithuania

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The Three Lions stayed unbeaten in qualifying thanks to goals from Premier League and Bundesliga stars, while Cristiano Ronaldo scored another hat trick.

[ MORE: Spurs’ Lo Celso injured ]

Both were a part of EURO 2020 qualification on Tuesday.

England 5-3 Kosovo

A wild one, indeed.

Valon Berisha scored a first minute goal for the visitors, who fell behind 5-1 by the break thanks to Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, an own goal, and a Jadon Sancho brace.

But the Lazio man didn’t quit, scoring in the 49th minute and seeing his side pull to within two via a Vedat Muriqi 55th minute goal.

The drama took another step up when Man City property Arijanet Muric stopped a Harry Kane penalty to keep the deficit at two.

Sancho’s goals were his first and second for the Three Lions.

Lithuania 1-5 Portugal

Cristiano Ronaldo had no pity on the minnows, added a trio of goals to his seventh minute penalty in a demolition of Lithuania.

It was his eighth international hat trick, as Lithuania joins Andorra, Switzerland, Spain, the Faroe Islands, Northern Ireland, Armenia, and Sweden on an illustrious list

Adding the comedy was the identity of the Lithuania goal scorer: one-time Portland Timbers defender Vytautas Andriuškevičius, who scored his first goal in 31 caps.

William Carvalho scored Portugal’s other goal deep in stoppage time.

Elsewhere

Moldova 0-4 Turkey
Albania 4-2 Iceland
Luxembourg 1-3 Serbia
Montenegro 0-3 Czech Republic
France 3-0 Andorra

Kosovo boss emphatically says they will not back down against England

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Kosovo manager Bernard Challandes has his team sitting a surprising second in Group A of Euro 2020 qualifying. On Saturday, they completed their most surprising result yet, a 2-1 comeback win over the Czech Republic which followed a win over Bulgaria back in June.

Ranked 120th in the world by FIFA and only gaining recognition by the governing body three years ago, Kosovo is now unbeaten in a shocking 15 matches, a run of matches that dates all the way back to October 2017. They are known as “The Brazil of the Balkans” in reference to the attacking style of football Challandes has brought, and the youthful squad averaged just 23 years old in the win over the Czech Republic.

That mentality was described – passionately – by Challandes in his pre-match press conference ahead of the match against England at St. Mary’s. He went into detail about how he will not adjust his relentless press while playing a more superior opponent.

“It’s tactical pressing. In a crazy game, it’s ‘Go! Return! Go! Go! Go!” Challandes said while yelling and gesturing wildly. “Perhaps it’s not the right run. But it’s in here,” Challandes said, pointing to his head. “I will, I want to win the ball.”

He then describes that pressing is not just a defensive tactic, but also one that can lead to chances down the other end. “It’s not only defense, it’s preparation for a goal for us.”

Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp would be proud.

Challandes was hired by Kosovo last year after spending the previous three years as a scout for Swiss club Basel. He had led Armenia during qualification for Euro 2016, falling just four points short of a place in the playoff round. A win for Kosovo in the match at St. Mary’s would put them alone atop Group A, currently sitting a single point behind England, although Gareth Southgate‘s squad does have a game in hand.

Montenegro fire Serbian coach for missing Kosovo match

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Montenegro have fired their Serbian coach Ljubisa Tumbakovic after he didn’t take charge of their UEFA EURO 2020 qualifying game against Kosovo on Friday.

Tumbakovic and two of his Serbian born players who play for Montenegro, Filip Stojkovic and Mirko Ivanic, pulled out of the game under pressure from Serbia who do not recognize Kosovo as a nation.

Political pressure from Serbia

Kosovo declared its independence from Serbia in 2008, and although most of the EU and the United States reocgnize it as an independent nation, several countries around the world do not. FIFA recognized Kosovo as a nation three years ago and it has taken part in officials games ever since.

In a statement released by the Montenegrin FA, they revealed that Tumbakovic, who has been in charge since 2016, has been fired.

“The executive board made a unanimous decision to relieve Tumbakovic of his duties after he decided not to be in charge of the national team for the match. Apart from being an unpleasant surprise, Tumbakovic’s move also constitutes a breach of his professional duties stipulated by his contract.”

Kosovo government gives financial reward to national team

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TIRANA, Albania (AP) Kosovo’s government has decided to give a reward of 500,000 euros ($570,000) to the national soccer team as a reward for topping their group in the UEFA Nations League and securing at least a playoff spot in qualifying for the 2020 European Championship.

Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008, has only been a UEFA and FIFA member since 2016.

The small Balkan republic routed Azerbaijan 4-0 in Pristina on Tuesday to win Group 3 of the lower-tiered League D and get promoted to League C for the next Nations League.

Playing in the playoffs could give Kosovo a shortcut to Euro 2020, which would be a huge sporting success for the country.

Luka Modric slams FIFA after rescheduled game

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Croatia’s match against Kosovo was halted on Saturday due to an unplayable pitch at the Maksimir Stadium in Zagreb, Croatia thanks to torrential rain.

As conditions improved, the match was picked up the following day, with Croatia winning 1-0. But according to Croatian star Luka Modric, that’s not the whole story.

The Real Madrid midfielder says the team did not learn of the rescheduled match until the following morning, giving the team no chance to ready their bodies to play again the next day.

“Last night we got information the match will not be played,” Modric told reporters after the match. “Of course, you go to bed a little later and then in the morning, they woke us all up like they would in the army! Of course, we didn’t have good preparation for the match.”

That’s not all. Not only was the decision made late, but now Croatia has just one day of rest until their away match in Turkey on Tuesday. Modric is livid that accomodations were not made to move that match back a day and keep from forcing Croatian players to essentially warm up for three matches in four days time.

“FIFA showed they don’t care about the players,” Modric said. “The only thing that mattered to them was the match to be played. On Saturday, it was hard to play at that pitch but no one seemed to care. If they did care, they would have postponed the Turkey-Croatia game to Wednesday.”