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James says he was not knocked unconscious in Wales draw

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Head injury awareness again rose to the forefront in the 1-1 draw between Wales and Croatia in Cardiff when Daniel James went down after colliding with a pair of opponents.

The Manchester United winger looked to almost sure have been knocked unconscious when Domagoj Vida’s knee appeared to tap the back of his head while challenging for a ball in the air. Vida went toppling over the back of teammate Borna Barisic who ducked out of the way, but it was James who many were concerned for as he lay motionless on his back with his eyes closed.

Yet James was allowed to come back onto the field and completed the full 90 minutes, sparking criticism from injury advocates and fans who were concerned for James’ safety on the field, at potential risk for even more serious consequences should he indeed have suffered a concussion.

After the game however, despite what fans saw as James lie on the turf, the 21-year-old insisted he was not knocked unconscious. “I’m fine,” James claimed after the match, speaking to Sky Sports. “I think he just caught me in the head but I didn’t get knocked out fortunately.”

Wales boss Ryan Giggs backed up the decision as well, calling James’ motionless display “a bit of acting.”

“The medical staff went over, he was compos mentis and we did all the checks at half-time and he was fine,” Giggs said, referring to the latin phrase for “of sound mind.”

If James was indeed faking unconsciousness, it’s natural to wonder if he should face a fine from UEFA for looking to con referees, and in the process possibly confusing the independent neurologists on site assigned to assess head injuries.

ESPN broadcaster Taylor Twellman, who has been outspoken over the past few years advocating for head injury awareness after his career was cut short by concussions, took to Twitter to criticize Wales for allowing James back into the game. Twellman, who was on the ESPN call of the broadcast with Ian Darke, said more needs to be done to prevent players from being able to force their way back onto the field, lest someone be killed by second impact syndrome.

Former Hull City player Ryan Mason, who was forced to retire after a serious skull fracture saw him fighting for his life, was also seriously concerned about the incident.

Interestingly enough, later in the match just seconds after the second half restart, young Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu was whalloped from behind by Croatia’s Bruno Petkovic in a wild and reckless aerial challenge. Petkovic’s elbow went clattering into the back of Ampadu’s head, and the was left writhing on the ground holding his head. The Chelsea youngster was taken off the field and immediately replaced by Joe Morrell, while Petkovic was lucky to escape with just a yellow card.

Euro qualifying: Gundogan saves 10-man Germany, Bale earns Wales draw

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Germany played for much of its visit to Estonia with 10 men as Emre Can was sent off for a bad last-man tackle just 14 minutes in, but Ilkay Gundogan‘s second-half brace saw Germany slide through with all three points on a 3-0 win to jump back on top of Group C. The all-important first came on a deflected effort from just outside the box to the right of center, while his second came minutes later with a shot from nearly the same place but just inside the area. Timo Werner added the third with under 20 minutes to go.

Wales secured a 1-1 draw at home against Croatia, but both sides will have greivences with the refereeing. Daniel James was taken out by Dejan Lovren on the edge of the box eight minutes in and likely should have been a penalty kick as the Liverpool defender barged James over without playing the ball. After Nikola Vlasic put Croatia ahead moments later, Gareth Bale would equalize just before halftime one a silky play through the Croatian defense, but a foul in the buildup wasn’t called that would have stopped play before the goalscoring moment.

There were also a pair of scary moments that involved nasty-looking head injuries. James came together with a pair of Croatians in the first half, and while it looked initially like Borna Barisic and Domagoj Vida had taken the brunt of the clash, James appeared to lose consciousness thanks to a knee in the back of his head. Despite the appearance of a clear distressing head injury, James was allowed to continue. Just second after the halftime break, Ethan Ampadu settled under the ball for a header until Bruno Petkovic blasted through his torso from behind, sending the Welsh midfielder to the ground awkwardly, holding his head in agony. Petkovic came in so hard that he earned a yellow card and maybe could have even seen red on another day. Ampadu was not allowed to continue, replaced immediately by Joe Morrell. Also notable in the match, Mateo Kovacic was taken off at halftime after appearing to pick up a muscle problem.

Austria held on for a 1-0 victory over Slovenia to temporarily jump into the lead in Group G, ahead of Poland on goal differential. Hoffenheim defender Stefan Posch scored the game’s only goal, a 21st minute effort off a corner. The back line did the rest, holding the hosts to just two shots on target in Ljubljana.

Poland secured qualification to the finals with a 2-0 win over North Macedonia behind goals from Przemyslaw Frankowski and Arkadiusz Milik, both which came in the final 20 minutes. The first was a messy finish from Chicago Fire winger Frankowski, collecting a flubbed Robert Lewandowski shot and poking it through past goakeeper Stole Dimitrievski. The second goal was much prettier, with the referee playing advantage after Lewandowski was fouled, and Milik delivered a delicious looper into the far corner.

Click here to see a roundup of the action from the early slate of games, including wins by Belgium, the Netherlands, and Russia.

Full Sunday Euro 2020 qualification scoreboard:

Kazakhstan 0-2 Belgium
Belarus 1-2 Netherlands
Cyprus 0-5 Russia
Hungary 1-0 Azerbaijan
Scotland 6-0 San Marino
Estonia 0-3 Germany
Poland 2-0 North Macedonia
Slovenia 0-1 Austria
Wales 1-1 Croatia

Teams who have secured guaranteed Euro 2020 qualification:

Italy
Belgium
Russia
Poland

Bale admits to playing with “anger” at Real Madrid

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Gareth Bale is still a Real Madrid player and you would have got very long odds on that being the case this summer.

After a concerted effort from Real head coach Zinedine Zidane and president Florentino Perez to sell the Welsh winger, Bale ended up staying at the Santiago Bernabeu.

Speaking ahead of Wales’ crucial EURO 2020 qualifier against Slovakia on Thursday, Bale admitted he has been playing with a certain amount of anger about the situation.

“You play with a lot of emotion. Anger comes into it of course, but I haven’t got anything to clear my mind about,” Bale said. “I try and give my best whether here [with Wales] or in Madrid and I will continue to do that.”

Bale looked certain to leave for China in the summer but the move broke down and after Marco Asensio’s serious knee injury he was suddenly needed by Zidane.

His start to the season for Real has been modest, with Bale scoring twice in six La Liga appearances as the Spanish giants sit top of the table.

And Bale clearly isn’t best pleased about the way he was treated by Real’s hierarchy, which mirrors the disdain their famously demanding supporters show him.

At the age of 30, Bale still has plenty of good years ahead of him but you have to wonder if this will be his last in Madrid. The only stumbling block is a Premier League club, or a club anywhere else in the globe, being able to match his incredible salary of more than $370,000 per week.

Bale isn’t keen to leave Madrid in a hurry and has another three years left on his current contract, so unless someone gets close to those numbers, he will remain in Madrid and he will probably remain angry too.

EURO 2020 qualifying: Netherlands rallies in Germany, Bale saves Wales

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Late heroics helped desperate Netherlands and Wales to big wins in their quests for a place at EURO 2020.

[ MORE:Β USMNT strengths and weaknessesΒ ]


Germany 2-4 Netherlands

The Dutch sure can rally.

In a EURO qualifier which could almost be described as must-win, Ronald Koeman‘s Netherlands erased a 1-0 lead and overcame a late equalizer to beat Joachim Low’s Germany 4-2 in Hamburg on Friday.

Serge Gnabry‘s ninth minute goal gave Germany a lead it would take into the break, but Frenkie de Jong scored in the 59th before Ryan Babel helped force an own goal out of Jonathan Tah.

Donyell Malen blasted a close range shot home six minutes after Toni Kroos scored a penalty to restore the deadlock. Georginio Wijnaldum (Liverpool) put the match to bed in stoppage time.

The Netherlands entered the match with three points from two matches, but had already lost to Germany in its home fixture and was staring up at a Northern Ireland team which is 4-0 to start qualifying. Germany entered the day 3-0.

Wales 2-1 Azerbaijan

However tumultuous his past few seasons have been, Gareth Bale remains an absolute baller.

Bale scored in the 84th minute against stingy Azerbaijan to boost the Welsh to three points and a spot in crazy deep Group E. Croatia and Hungary have nine points, while Slovakia and Wales now have six. A draw would’ve been good for Azerbaijan’s first point of qualifying

Elsewhere

Estonia 1-2 Belarus
Cyprus 1-1 Kazakhstan
Slovakia 0-4 Croatia
Austria 6-0 Latvia
Scotland 1-2 Russia
Slovenia 2-0 Poland
San Marino 0-4 Belgium

Bale hits back at critics

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The Gareth Bale saga has taken many twists and turns over the last 12 months. Perhaps the biggest twist/turn has been in the past few weeks, as Bale came into Real Madrid preseason fit and ready to go, and he’s started Real’s first three games of the season, scoring a pair of goals in a 2-2 draw with Villarreal last weekend.

Speaking in front of the media for the first time since his rumored transfer to China fell through, as well as all the back and forth rumors between him wanting to stay and Zidane wanting him out this summer, Bale hit out at the critics.

[READ: Strengths and Weaknesses of USMNT]

“I don’t read anything, I don’t listen to anyone,” Bale said. “People don’t know the situation. I had a good summer holiday, I didn’t think about it too much, I just kept my head down and worked hard in training. The things that happened will stay private.

“It’s not been ideal, but I’ve been there before, and I know how to deal with it. I had a good preseason in terms of training, and I know that things can turn quickly in football. I feel good, I feel stronger than ever. I’m in very good shape. I’m professional. I’m paid to play football, and you will have ups and downs. If you keep working hard, things will turn, and you will get rewarded.”

Of course, by saying that he doesn’t read anything or listen to anyone, he’s admitting that he has seen the reports and heard plenty of rumors. In 2019, it’s impossible to stay away from it, whether it’s his Real Madrid teammates asking him what’s up or family members wanting to know what the truth is.

However, the most important part of his quote was in the second part. If true that Bale is feeling stronger than ever, that can be massive both for Wales and Real Madrid. Real Madrid needed Bale to play a big role with Cristiano Ronaldo gone, but the winger failed to take the next step in his career. It may have been unfair for him to fill Ronaldo’s shoes, but the continued injuries and poor form didn’t help his case.

When Bale admits that he’s training better, and is likely taking better care of his body, as well as not wading into the transfer rumors, that’s a good sign for him as a player. It means his focus is truly on his game and that he’s working his hardest to bring another La Liga title to Real Madrid, and to get Wales into Euro 2020.