Kosovo

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England finishes EURO 2020 qualifying by beating Kosovo

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England’s 2020 European Championship qualification campaign wrapped up on Sunday with a slightly flattering 4-0 victory away to third-place, and playoff qualifiers, Kosovo.

[ VIDEO: Game stopped for racist chanting; player targeted later scores goal ]

Gareth Southgate‘s side was hardly at its best just three days after thrashing Montenegro and securing qualification to this summer’s tournament. They only led by a score of 1-0 through 78 minutes, before scoring a trio of late goals to put the game out of reach and rob the hosts of any potential moral victory.

Harry Winks opened the scoring, and his England account, in the 32nd minute. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain found Winks near the top of Kosovo’s penalty area and though Winks’ first touch appeared quite poor, every player in blue stopped and stood as the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder walked in on goal and coolly slotted the ball home to make it 1-0.

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From that point forward, Kosovo enjoyed control of the game’s tempo and looked every bit the Three Lions’ equal. That is, until Harry Kane finished an open chance at the back post in the 79th minute and opened the floodgates.

Marcus Rashford added a third four minutes later, followed by another first England goal — this time, scored by Mason Mount — in the 91st.

England finishes EURO 2020 qualification with a record of 7W-0D-1L and a +31 goal differential, which is second only to Belgium who sit at +32 with one game still to play. England required Sunday’s victory to confirm its place as a Pot 1 team at the draw for the group stage.

Kosovo prepares warm welcome for England fans and players

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PRISTINA, Kosovo — The mayor of Pristina is promising England fans and players a warm welcome for their European Championship qualifier against Kosovo, but there’s no free beer.

England plays Sunday in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo, after its Euro 2020 matches against Bulgaria and Montenegro were marred by racist abuse directed at its players.

Pristina Mayor Shpend Ahmeti told the Associated Press on Thursday that big celebrations have been prepared to show there is no racism in Kosovo and also (as) a form of gratitude for London’s role in Kosovo’s war.

Kosovo declared independence from Serbia in 2008, but Belgrade refuses to recognize it. A bloody Serb crackdown ended after NATO intervention in 1999.

Kosovo, which was accepted as a member of UEFA and FIFA in 2016, is third in Group A and plays at second-place Czech Republic on Thursday.

Big posters showing England players have been put up around downtown Pristina and other cities, with slogans like Miresevjen broo (Welcome brother).

Ahmeti said waiters at coffee bars will wear T-shirts with words of welcome for visiting fans, and an organized celebration will be held at the stadium ahead of the match.

But one idea to hold an event offering free beer to England fans was turned down, said Ahmeti, with advice coming from the British embassy in Pristina.

Hundreds of England fans – possibly more – are expected to watch the game at the 13,000-seat Fadil Vokrri stadium in Pristina.

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.

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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.”