Smalling calls for stronger sanctions against racism

Roma defender Chris Smalling believes harsher sanctions are required from football’s governing bodies to change the attitude towards racism.

The English centre-back joined Roma on loan from Manchester United after limited opportunities at Old Trafford last season.

Smalling has only made three appearances for the Giallorossi after missing the start of the season with a muscle injury but is settling in well at the Serie A club.

The 29-year-old is aware of the issues surrounding racism in football, but says while it is difficult to know what the right approach is, he hopes harsher penalties will deter supporters from racist behaviour.

“In an ideal scenario it wouldn’t happen, but in a second scenario I think the authorities need to have the type of sanctions that make people think twice or three times about it,” Smalling told his club’s website.

“But until those are in place, if something was to happen to myself or a team-mate, then you could walk off.

“I know it’s difficult because it’s disappointing for 99 per cent of fans who are at the stadium to enjoy the spectacle and are not involved. But I feel like at some point it is going to happen – and it probably should happen. Maybe that then speeds up the authorities to change things.

“Unfortunately it takes for things to get worse before real change happens – that happens in all walks of life – but I do think that until those sanctions are strong enough we might not be far off a point where players do walk off.

“If one player is abused then the whole team should be together, and I’m sure they would be.”

Earlier this season Romelu Lukaku was subjected to racist chants during Inter’s Serie A fixture against Cagliari, but Smalling is yet to experience it himself since arriving in Italy.

He said: “Honestly, I have not noticed anything – although I’m still picking up the language!

“I’ve not experienced it directly, but obviously you do see what’s in the news. I don’t think it is just a problem in Italy, I think we are getting more cases in England too. It seems to be very much a generational thing that I think definitely needs to be clamped down on.

“I think we are getting closer to the type of sanctions that there need to be, and they need to be harsh.

“But hopefully they can single out the ones that are unwilling to change, and then hopefully the new generation – like my boy, and other younger kids – don’t grow up seeing it and thinking it’s right.”

Bermuda 1-5 Mexico: Macias double leads El Tri to strong Nations League start

Jose Juan Macias scored twice as Mexico commenced their CONCACAF Nations League campaign with a 5-1 thrashing of Bermuda on Friday.

Uriel Antuna guided Gerardo Martino’s men ahead in Hamilton before young forward Macias added a brace to the goal he scored on international debut against Trinidad and Tobago earlier this month.

Hirving Lozano restored El Tri’s three-goal buffer on the hour after Nahki Wells briefly gave Bermuda hope of a fightback and the Napoli star should have had a second when sent to the spot six minutes after his first.

His failure to convert mattered little as Hector Herrera fired in a fifth 19 minutes from the end to give the Gold Cup winners a commanding goal difference atop Group B in League A.

Antuna forced Dale Eve into a sharp save in the opening exchanges before making the breakthrough in the 25th minute.

The LA Galaxy winger darted in behind, controlled Hirving Lozano’s well-weighted pass and coolly rounded the goalkeeper.

The hosts fell further behind in first-half stoppage time, Macias rifling home on the half-volley after Cristian Calderon nodded down Hector Herrera’s lofted ball into the box.

The 20-year-old doubled his account eight minutes after the interval, converting the rebound from Antuna’s saved finish, though Bermuda quickly responded courtesy of a skilful Wells finish from a Zeiko Lewis corner.

Lozano restored Mexico’s advantage three minutes later by lashing across keeper Eve, only to then hit the upright with a penalty following Jaylon Bather’s handball in the box.

But there was plenty of time left for a fifth and Atletico Madrid midfielder Herrera delivered it in spectacular fashion, bending a brilliant effort into the top-right corner from a difficult angle.

What does it mean? Mexico on top in Group B

One win apiece in two meetings between Bermuda and Panama last month left Group B in the balance and Mexico seized the opportunity on their entrance to the competition.

Though all three sides are level on points, El Tri’s superior goal difference has set them up nicely.

Macias an emerging star for Mexico

Prolific in Liga MX, the talented Macias again looked a striker of international class in what was just his second appearance at this level.

Bather fortunate to avoid early bath

Culpable for failing to cut out Lozano’s pass for the first goal, Bermuda centre-back Bather did his side a further disservice when he appeared to stamp on the Napoli winger in a later touchline incident.

He was lucky to escape without even a yellow card.

What’s next?

Mexico have the chance to strengthen their position when they host Panama on Tuesday, the same day as Bermuda’s friendly against Guatemala. 

Uruguay 1-0 Peru: Rodriguez the hero in La Celeste friendly win

Brian Rodriguez scored the winner as Uruguay defeated Peru 1-0 in an international friendly at Estadio Centenario on Friday.

Los Angeles FC winger Rodriguez finished a flowing move in the 17th minute after Brian Lozano’s pass inside was helped on by Matias Vecino in Montevideo.

It was a second goal in three senior international appearances for Rodriguez, which helped La Celeste exact some revenge on Peru – who eliminated Uruguay on penalties in the quarter-finals of this year’s Copa America.

The midfield trio of Vecino, Lucas Torreira and Real Madrid’s Federico Valverde immediately got on top as the hosts dominated the opening stages.

With no Luis Suarez or Edinson Cavani available to face Peru, Rodriguez made his presence felt as he drove home from inside the area to cap a fine Uruguay performance in the first half.

Copa America finalists Peru lifted their intensity to improve after the restart but failed to register a shot on target over the 90 minutes, even though they rallied late on after both teams had made numerous changes.

Maxi Gomez should have doubled the lead with 20 minutes to play, but he was denied by a good save from Pedro Gallese, as Rodriguez’s solitary strike proved enough.

Uruguay and Peru meet again in Lima on Tuesday.

United States 7-0 Cuba: McKennie´s 13-minute hat-trick inspires Nations League rout

The United States barely raised a sweat as they opened their CONCACAF Nations League with a 7-0 humbling of Cuba.

USA star Weston McKennie scored a 13-minute hat-trick in the first half of the Group A clash at Audi Field in Washington on Friday.

Gregg Berhalter’s USA were a class above in the American capital, where the home side led struggling Cuba 6-0 at half-time.

USA were expected to ease past Cuba in the inaugural CONCACAF Nations League and the match went according to script after a dream start.

McKennie broke the deadlock after just 31 seconds and the Schalke midfielder doubled the lead a little more than four minutes later – Jordan Morris providing both assists as the one-way traffic continued.

Morris got in on the action and made it 3-0 in the ninth minute with a composed finish to beat Cuba goalkeeper Nelson Johnston at his near post.

It got ugly for Cuba as McKennie completed his hat-trick four minutes later when Reggie Cannon slid a ball across the six-yard box and the former reacted quickest.

Cuba managed to stop the bleeding until a stunning backheel from McKennie found Morris, whose effort was bundled over the line by an unfortunate Dario Ramos in the 37th minute before Josh Sargent curled the ball into the bottom corner for a 6-0 lead approaching half-time.

USA captain Christian Pulisic converted a 62nd-minute penalty to extend the country’s mammoth lead, which fell just shy of their record.

 

What does it mean? USA show no mercy

After three matches without victory and two losses, USA needed a response and they got it in style. The United States were expected to win but their composure and ruthlessness saw them fall just short of the country’s biggest win – 8-0 against Bermuda in 2008.

McKennie scores first hat-trick

It was a memorable outing for the 21-year-old. For the first time in his career, McKennie took home the match ball following his stunning opening half as he recorded the fastest hat-trick in USA history.

Sorry Cuba’s winless run continues

Cuba were on the backfoot from the outset as their winless streak extended to seven games. In that period, they have conceded 33 goals.

What’s next?

USA will look to maintain their momentum against Canada away from home on Tuesday, while Cuba are not in action until November 20’s Nations League showdown with the United States.

Debut goal doesn´t feel right – Czech hero Ondrasek

Zdenek Ondrasek admitted he is still coming to terms with the mind-blowing moment of scoring the winning goal against England in his first international appearance for the Czech Republic.

Debutant Ondrasek, 30, was the hero in Prague as the Czech Republic came from behind to boost their hopes of automatic qualification for Euro 2020 with a 2-1 victory on Friday.

The Czech’s moved level with England atop Group A having played an extra game than their star-studded opponents with three rounds remaining.

Ondrasek replaced Patrik Schick after 65 minutes with the game level at 1-1 and the striker could barely believe he had scored the winner against the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists.

“I think it still doesn’t feel right, I’m happy that I scored, but I don’t feel it,” he told UEFA.com.

“It’s so big I think my head will explode soon because I played my first game for my country, which I was waiting for so long, and I scored the winning goal against England. I’m so happy it’s unbelievable.

“The other guys on the bench said ‘score a goal, man’. So after an amazing pass from [Lukas] Masopust I hit it perfectly and I’m so happy It went in.”

The Czech Republic finish their qualifying campaign in November with a home game against Kosovo before a trip to Bulgaria in the final round.

 

Claudio Ranieri takes over at Sampdoria

Things are getting interesting in Italy! After just seven rounds of Serie A, couple of managers have been sacked already, but also they have been replaced too. Stefano Pioli took over from Marco Giampaolo at AC Milan, but now Claudio Ranieri is taking over from Eusebio di Francesco – once again!

The new manager of Sampdoria is former Leicester City boss that had masterminded the Premier League winning season in 2016, but now a new challenge is ahead of the experienced Italian. He is taking over from Di Francesco once again, as that is exactly what he did at AS Roma last year. He was the one to succeed Di Francesco and after just three points out of possible 21, it was a time for change for Sampdoria.

They are sitting bottom of the table and Ranieri is expected to change things around. He signed a two-year deal with the Genoa club and he will earn €2 million per season.

Arsenal to face competition for Donyell Malen

He used to play for Arsenal’s youth teams, but now he is one of their targets to return to the club. According to the English media, Arsenal are interested in signing PSV Eindhoven’s Donyell Malen, one of their biggest talents in recent years. The 20-year-old forward is in great form this season, scoring goals for fun, even once putting five past a goalkeeper in a single match.

But it looks like Gunners will have to face some stern competition. If Barcablaugranes are to be believed, PSW forward is a target of Barcelon as well. They also claim that not only are Barca following Malen, but also Real Madrid are keeping an eye on him.

If that is really true, then Arsenal will have some serious work to do in order to get the player to return to the Emirates Stadium. Malen was part of the Arsenal setup from 2015 to 2017, before returning to his homeland, but now it is only a matter of time when the striker will leave the Netherlands.

England loss a ´wake-up call´, accept Kane and Southgate

Gareth Southgate and Harry Kane agree England’s loss to the Czech Republic was a “wake-up call” for the Three Lions.

England’s perfect record in Euro 2020 qualifying ended in Prague on Friday despite Kane’s early penalty putting Southgate’s side ahead.

Defender Jakub Brabec equalised within five minutes then, in the closing stages at Eden Arena, substitute striker Zdenek Ondrasek hit the winner on his international debut.

England would have qualified for the finals had they won but are now joined on 12 points at the top of the group by the Czech Republic.

Qualification can still be sealed on Monday when England go to Bulgaria with Southgate demanding a response from the Three Lions after their first qualifying defeat for 10 years.

“In terms of a wake-up call, we have had a lot of plaudits but there is a lot of work to be done to be a really top team – tonight was clear evidence of that,” Southgate told reporters.

“I always have to accept responsibility. We tried something to be more solid without the ball and that did not happen. We were poorer using the ball in the first half.

“In terms of the players, there are players who are not playing well for their clubs. That is the situation we are in. But we collectively have to accept the result and as manager I have to accept it.

“We have to respond in the right way, we have a couple of days to prepare and we have to reward our supporters with a better performance. There were not many positives. We accept defeat, and accept we have to be better than we were.”

Kane hit his 24th international goal but the striker agreed with Southgate’s assessment of England’s below-par performance in Prague.

“I think it was down to us,” Kane said to ITV. “It was a perfect start to an away game.

“We were sloppy with the ball, we didn’t move it as quickly and we weren’t pressing as we normally do.

“The second half was better, we had a couple of chances to put the game to bed and we didn’t and unfortunately we gave one away at the end.

“Every away game in Europe is difficult. They had the crowd behind them, sometimes the pitch is not as easy to play, but that’s no excuse. It’s a bit of a wake-up call but we’re in a good position.

“There’s still stuff to work on for sure. We gave the ball away too cheaply and we’ll have to go away and look at it. There’s no need to panic and we’ll go again on Monday.”

Griezmann says France must prepare for tough test against Turkey

Antoine Griezmann urged France to immediately turn their focus towards Monday’s date with Turkey after beating Iceland 1-0 in Reykjavik.

The Barcelona forward won the penalty Olivier Giroud converted midway through the second half to secure three points, inflicting a first home loss in a year on their hosts. 

World champions France stumbled to a 2-0 defeat against Turkey in June, well beaten in Konya and condemned by critics who had come to expect success. 

It remains the only blip in their campaign and France will book a place at Euro 2020 if they avenge that rare loss by beating Turkey at the Stade de France. 

Griezmann told TF1: “We’ve got an important match at home now. We suffered over there [in Turkey], so we’ll need to prepare well for this match.”

He fell dramatically for the penalty against Iceland, but replays showed Griezmann was impeded and France were well worth their success against a home side who offered little attacking threat but defended doughtily. 

“It was very difficult, a really hard match,” Griezmann added. “We needed to take the three points and now we have an important game coming up at home.” 

Turkey and France sit on 18 points at the top of Group H, six clear of third-placed Iceland, meaning both are on the brink of qualification for next year’s finals. 

Didier Deschamps was satisfied with his team’s display as they followed up a 4-0 home win over Iceland in March with a more attritional away success. 

He told TF1: “Firstly that’s a victory here, it wasn’t easy. We had the chance to get a second, they’ve been good on set-pieces.  

“That was a man’s match, there was commitment, we’ve responded by having a lot of the ball. We could have made it more comfortable by putting away the chances in the end. It’s a good victory ahead of Monday’s match.” 

Asked about a pre-match knock that kept midfielder N’Golo Kante out of the game, with Moussa Sissoko his late replacement, Deschamps said: “I don’t think it’s too serious for ‘NG’.” 

As for whether Kante could face Turkey, Deschamps added: “I do not have the answer tonight.”

Lionel Scaloni is doing the right thing with Argentina

Argentina have suffered several disappointments since they lost the 2014 FIFA World Cup final against Germany. They lost both the 2015 and 2016 Copa America on penalties against Chile, and were eliminated during the Round of 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup by France. All of this while having the world’s consensus best player, Lionel Messi, leading the way.

But things have changed for Argentina of late. Jorge Sampaoli left the managerial position after the 2018 World Cup fiasco, and Lionel Scaloni replaced him as an interim manager. The former Deportivo La Coruna defender was “on trial” until the 2019 Copa America, but he led La Albiceleste to a third-place finish. As a result, he got the job on a full-time basis.

There has been a lot of criticism directed towards Scaloni at times. He is adding younger players into the mix, and the results sometimes have not come as expected. But he shouldn’t receive the amount of pressure he’s getting from pundits and experts. Argentina must let him work on his own, because he is taking the team to places they should have gone years ago.

A new process filled with several new names

Nobody can deny the quality of players such as Sergio Aguero, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia and Sergio Romero, just to name a few. However, they are not regular names for Scaloni anymore and some have disappeared altogether from the squad lists. Instead, Scaloni is trusting younger players and giving them roles within the team.

Names such as Lautaro Martinez, Paulo Dybala, Nicolas Tagliafico, Leandro Paredes, Giovani Lo Celso and Rodrigo De Paul are now part of Argentina’s regular starting lineup. That would have been unthinkable 12 months ago. Who would have thought names such as Gonzalo Montiel, Lucas Martinez Quarta, Guido Rodriguez or Matias Suarez would be on the squad as well? Yet, Scaloni wants them there. He knows they are the future of the team.

Messi is not going anywhere. Experienced players such as Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and even Aguero will probably remain on the team as well. But Scaloni is doing things right by allowing new players to settle into the national team set up. The latest friendly against Germany was the best example. The match ended with a 2-2 draw thanks to goals from Lucas Ocampos and Lucas Alario. Neither had a lot of experience with the NT, yet they produced away from home and against Germany. Scaloni should receive the credit for trusting in them.

It’s always difficult to carry with the expectations of such an important side like La Albiceleste. But Scaloni knows what he’s doing. He just needs to keep working and blocking the unnecessary criticism against him.