UEFA Give Women’s European Championship New Slot In 2022

(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization's headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP
(FILES) In this file photo taken on February 28, 2020 shows the UEFA logo at the organization’s headquarters in Nyon. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

The next women’s European Championship in England has been put back a year to 2022, UEFA confirmed on Thursday, after initially being postponed as a knock-on effect of the coronavirus crisis.

European football’s governing body confirmed that the competition will be staged from July 6-31, 2022, following a meeting of its Executive Committee.

The competition was put back after the earlier decision to delay the men’s European Championship by a year to 2021 in the face of the pandemic, and the desire to avoid a clash of the two tournaments.

“When we had to take an urgent decision on the postponement of UEFA Euro 2020, we always had the impact on UEFA women’s Euro 2021 in mind,” said UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin.

“We have carefully considered all options, with our commitment to the growth of women’s football at the forefront of our thinking.”

Dismissing concerns that the women’s game might be considered an afterthought, Ceferin added that the move to 2022 ensured that the women’s Euro would be given “the spotlight it deserves”.

READ ALSO: Italy Launches Antibody Tests For Coronavirus Immunity

The final of the women’s Euro is set to be played at Wembley, which is also the venue for both semi-finals and the final of the men’s tournament.

The English FA’s director of women’s football, Sue Campbell, said that the host nation backed the decision to delay the tournament by a year.

“We agree that this decision will ultimately benefit the tournament, creating its own window in the football calendar. It will also allow us all more time following this challenging period to deliver an unforgettable event befitting of a home Euro,” she said.

AFP

COVID-19: The Weeks That Rocked Sport

 

As the coronavirus pandemic has put much of the globe in lockdown, sports has not been immune, indeed the deadly fall out from a Champions League game in Milan and the speed with which the disease spread through the UAE Tour peloton raise worrying issues for the future.

AFP Sport picks 10 dates during the crisis that tell the tale of how sport has been hit.

February 19: Spreading the virus

Atalanta met Valencia in Milan in the Champions League just as infection numbers began to rise in northern Italy.

Thousands of Bergamo residents travelled to the game as others crowded together at home and in bars to watch.

“It’s clear that evening was a situation in which the virus was widely spread,” Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori later said as the virus raged across his city.

Valencia said 35 percent of their team and staff tested positive for coronavirus following the trip to Milan.

February 27: Danger in the peloton

The first sportsmen to come down with the virus were at cycling’s UAE Tour, which was abandoned after two Italian mechanics tested positive. Tests immediately found six more cases.

March 13: F1’s chequered flag

The opening Grand Prix of the Formula One season was called off two days before the race with teams already in Melbourne and practising.

READ ALSO: COVID-19: Asia Markets Down As Oil Bounces On Output Cuts Deal

Since then, eight more races have either been postponed or cancelled and by Saturday, when Haas became the latest outfit to furlough employees, half the teams on the grid had put staff on enforced absence.

March 15: The IPL declares

The Indian Premier League, cricket’s annual money maker which generates an estimated $11 billion, was postponed and rescheduled for April 15.

That won’t happen.

“Let’s say July-August is the earliest,” said Kevin Pietersen, the former England batsman.

March 17: Euro 2020 postponed

UEFA postpones Euro 2020 until 2021 though for a few days it insists the name will not change.

Moving its marquee international tournament gives the governing body of European football a window to sort out more pressing problems.

With club football halted almost everywhere, can it finish this season before player contracts expire at the end of June and sort out relegation, promotion and Champions League qualification in time for next season?

March 24: Tokyo Olympics off

After an uprising from athletes and sports bodies, the Tokyo Olympics became the first peacetime Games to be postponed.

The Games, originally scheduled for July 24-August 9, will be held 12 months late.

The International Olympic Committee, its member sports and Japan, faced a series of problems.

There was the loss of revenue, from broadcasting, sponsors and tickets that would normally go to federations, many of which were counting on the cash, or pay for the host’s expenditure.

There was the issue of athletes who had already qualified.

There was also the knock-on impact on other events. World Athletics quickly announced it was rescheduling its world championships, set for Eugene, Oregon, next summer to 2022.

The Olympic flame, meanwhile, was displayed for a week in a lantern and then put in storage in an undisclosed location, ready to burn brightly next summer.

April 1: Wimbledon’s net loss

Wimbledon chiefs cancelled the grass-court Grand Slam tournament for the first time since World War II.

Wimbledon’s move contrasted with the earlier decision by Roland Garros, to reschedule their major to the autumn.

French Open bosses admitted their tournament could face losses of £230 million ($284 million) but their unilateral decision raised the hackles of the ATP and WTA which have their own events to reschedule.

In contrast, the All England Club had the foresight to take out insurance which will protect it from such losses.

The tennis season will not resume until July 13 at the earliest.

April 2: Political football

As the British government struggled to cope with the spiralling crisis, health minister Matt Hancock pointed at the highly-paid Premier League players saying they should take a pay cut.

Players reacted furiously, but the decision of leading clubs to use a government scheme to furlough less-well-paid staff and the failure of players to agree to cuts, has made them an inviting political football.

Action in the Premier League had been halted in mid-March

April 6: Open and shut for majors

For the golf majors, it was a day of scribbling out plans and pencilling in others.

The 149th British Open, which was set for Royal St George’s Golf Club in Kent in July, was cancelled for the first time since World War II.

Less than an hour later, the three US-based major golf championships announced rescheduled dates.

The PGA Championship is now scheduled to be played August 6-9 in San Francisco. It was postponed from May.

The US Open was rescheduled from June to September 17-20 with the Ryder Cup to be contested one week later at Whistling Straits as scheduled.

The Masters, which was to have climaxed at Augusta National on Sunday, has been rescheduled for November 12-15.

April 8: Bundesliga leads race

The majority of Bundesliga clubs returned to team non-contact training.

With talks continuing over the Bundesliga resuming on May 2, the Germans seem to be leading the race to become first major European league to return to action, even if it is behind closed doors, and offer broadcasters a live fix for sports-starved fans round the world.

AFP

UEFA Admit Error Over ‘EURO 2020’ Name For 2021 Tournament

File: A board displays the groups and Spanish football player Iker Casillas (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

UEFA were forced into an embarrassing about-turn Friday after they mistakenly tweeted that Euro 2020 would keep its original title despite being pushed back to 2021 as a result of the coronavirus.

“Although it will provisionally take place from 11 June – 11 July 2021, #EURO2020 will still be known as UEFA EURO 2020,” UEFA had confidently said on Twitter.

However, just hours later, they were less assured.

“With apologies for the earlier error, to be clear no decision has yet been made on the name of the rearranged EURO to be held in 2021. The earlier tweet was sent by mistake,” they tweeted.

EURO 2020 has been pushed back 12 months to June 11 to July 11 next year to clear the way for suspended domestic competitions to wrap up if conditions allow.

UEFA said the postponement “will help all domestic competitions, currently on hold due to the COVID-19 emergency, to be completed” as it made a “commitment” to finishing club seasons by June 30.

Twenty of the 24 nations set to take part in the Euro have already qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played this month, have been postponed.

UEFA said those matches, and other scheduled friendlies, would be played in June subject to a review of the situation.

 

UEFA Proposes Postponing Euro 2020 To 2021 Due To Coronavirus

A board displays the groups and Spanish football player Iker Casillas (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP.

 

UEFA has proposed postponing this year’s European Championship until 2021, a source close to European football’s governing body told AFP on Tuesday, as the continent battles with the coronavirus pandemic.

The source’s confirmation of the proposal came after the Norwegian FA tweeted that the new plan is for the tournament to take place from June 11 to July 11 next year, turning Euro 2020 into Euro 2021.

The proposal was made as UEFA held crisis talks with its national associations as well as clubs and players bodies via videoconference on Tuesday. The proposal is likely to be ratified at a UEFA Executive Committee meeting in the afternoon.

The move comes with most of Europe’s domestic leagues having ground to a halt over the last week as football confronts its biggest issue in modern times.

The UEFA Champions League and Europa League competitions for clubs have also been suspended, with both still in the last-16 stage, but postponing the European Championship for national sides means they, along with national leagues, will have the chance to be completed, assuming travel restrictions are lifted in time.

Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with France on Tuesday having joined Italy and Spain in applying strict lockdown measures and European leaders also planning to ban all non-essential travel into the continent.

More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which was supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome. The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, had already led calls for the Euros to be postponed.

Euro 2020 was due to be held in 12 different cities across the continent, from as far apart as Dublin and Bilbao, to Saint Petersburg and Baku.

The semi-finals and final were due to be played in London and there would considerable knock-on effects to postponing the competition — the women’s European Championship is scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley.

UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.

Twenty of the 24 teams set to take part in the Euro have already qualified, but play-offs to determine the final four participants, due to be played later this month, will have to take place at a later date.

– Collision course with FIFA? –

Moving the Euro by a year also puts UEFA on a collision course with football’s world governing body FIFA, whose president Gianni Infantino has planned to stage the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup in June and July next year in China. Some of Europe’s top club sides are expected to be involved.

“FIFA will keep in regular contact with all relevant stakeholders during this difficult period and look to find in due course solutions in a spirit of cooperation, taking into account the interests of football at all levels,” Infantino wrote in an open letter on Monday.

“Health first and sporting solidarity should be the key principles guiding decision-making at this important moment in time and I am sure that the whole football community will live up to the great values of our sport.”

– ‘Final Four’ proposal –

As for its flagship club competitions, UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.

Reports on Tuesday also indicated both tournaments could conclude with a ‘Final Four’ meeting in the scheduled host cities — Istanbul for the Champions League and Gdansk in Poland for the Europa League, meaning the two-legged semi-finals would be removed.

Financially, UEFA will undoubtedly prefer postponements to outright cancellations, or playing matches behind closed doors, even if it is impossible at this stage to know when club football can resume.

The last European Championship, held in France in 2016, generated total revenue of close to two billion euros ($2.2 billion) for UEFA.

“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”

AFP

Euro 2020 Fate To Be Decided As Coronavirus Threat Looms

UEFA-Euro-2020-Logo-London
Photo: UEFA

 

UEFA is expected to postpone Euro 2020 by up to a year on Tuesday, as European football’s governing body considers its response to the fallout of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

All of Europe’s leading domestic leagues ground to a halt last week with football confronting its biggest issue in modern times, and the fate of UEFA’s Champions League and Europa League competitions must also be determined.

UEFA will hold a video conference with representatives from all 55 member associations as well as from clubs and players bodies. It will then hold an executive committee meeting at 1400 (1300 GMT) at its Swiss headquarters.

The future of the European Championship, due to take place for the first time in a dozen different cities spread across the continent from June 12 to July 12, is up in the air.

The “dark scenarios” that UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin warned against envisaging when he spoke at the organisation’s congress in Amsterdam just two weeks ago now have to be considered.

READ ALSO: Champions Cup: Coronavirus Forces Postponement Of Last Eight Matches

Europe has become the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, with Italy and Spain on lockdown, France rapidly following suit, and other countries closing borders to halt the spread of the outbreak.

More than 2,100 people have died in Italy, which is supposed to host the opening game of Euro 2020 in Rome.

– Postponed for a year? –

The head of the Italian football federation, Gabriele Gravina, has already proposed that the Euros be postponed, with Italy coach Roberto Mancini calling for it to pushed back 12 months.

“We would have won the European Championship this summer, we can also win it in 2021,” Mancini told television station Rai Sport.

It is a position that many across the continent are coming round to amid much uncertainty as to when club football can resume.

“UEFA has no choice. They have to postpone the Euros and the Champions League,” one senior figure in the world game told AFP, although finding agreement across the board may not be easy.

German league chief Christian Seifert believes postponing the European Championship is inevitable.

“I firmly count on the fact the tournament will be postponed,” Seifert said. “The probability that we have a perfect Euros this summer is measured by a number close to zero.”

German broadcaster ZDF reported that two possible options are on the table.

One is to push it back to 2021, although that is not as simple as it might appear, as it would need FIFA president Gianni Infantino to agree to halting the inaugural edition of his highly lucrative Club World Cup, due to take place in June and July next year in China with some of Europe’s top club sides involved.

FIFA offered “no comment” on Monday on the matter.

There is also the issue of the women’s European Championship, scheduled to run from July 7 to August 1 next year in England, with the final at Wembley. The London venue is also supposed to hold the semi-finals and final of Euro 2020. UEFA have also planned to stage an Under-21 Euros in Hungary and Slovenia in June next year.

The alternative option for UEFA, according to ZDF, is to maintain a Euro 2020 by playing it later in the year.

– Financial stakes ‘enormous’ –

That supposes that the crisis will have calmed down by then, and there is also the issue of all the other football that has been suspended.

UEFA may come to a decision to try to complete the Champions League and Europa League by curtailing the competitions, meaning ties up to the semi-finals could be decided in one-off matches.

Financially, UEFA would undoubtedly prefer postponing their flagship tournaments to cancelling them altogether, or playing matches behind closed doors.

“The financial stakes are enormous,” according to one senior figure in the international game. “We know that FIFA has significant reserves but we don’t know about UEFA or the different leagues.”

AFP

Bayern Ask Germany Coach To Recall Mueller For Euro 2020

Bayern Munich’s striker Thomas Mueller reacts during the German first division Bundesliga football match Bayern Munich vs VfL Wolfsburg on March 9, 2019 in Munich. Christof STACHE / AFP

 

Bayern Munich bosses are urging Germany head coach Joachim Loew to recall Thomas Mueller to the national team and take the in-form forward to the Euro 2020 finals.

Loew dropped a bombshell in March 2019 by axing Mueller, plus fellow 2014 World Cup winners Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels.

Loew ditched the trio to rebuild the Germany team after the debacle at the 2018 World Cup when the defending champions finished last in their group and failed to reach the knock-out stages in Russia.

“The game is not over yet,” was Mueller’s response after his dismissal last March.

He blasted Loew at the time, saying the way he was informed of the decision was “not in good style – it had nothing to do with appreciation”  after 100 appearances and 38 goals for Germany.

Loew’s squad face world champions France and reigning European champions Portugal in their group for the Euro 2020 finals.

There are calls to reinstate Mueller for March’s friendlies against Spain and Italy and the 30-year-old’s current form makes Loew’s decision hard to justify.

He has set up 12 goals in the Bundesliga this season, the most assists in Germany’s top tier, scoring four goals in Bayern’s last seven league games.

Mueller hit the net and had another goal disallowed in Saturday’s 5-0 rout of Schalke and is thriving since Hansi Flick replaced Niko Kovac as Bayern head coach in November.

“Thomas is enjoying an Indian summer, which is important for us, we need his goals and assists,” said Bayern chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.

“As a matter of principle, I don’t want to give Jogi Loew any advice.

“I always say if somebody plays well — and I hope that Thomas will continue to play at this top-level — then maybe there will be a rethink.”

Bayern president Herbert Hainer was more blunt.

“Every team needs a Thomas Mueller and it doesn’t matter whether that is in Munich or at the European championships,” said the 65-year-old.

Opinion polls in Germany’s top daily Bild and website Sport1 say 70 per cent of fans want Mueller in the national team at Euro 2020.

Hummels, 31, is also enjoying a spell of good form at centre back with Borussia Dortmund and there were similar calls for his return to the national side last October.

Oliver Bierhoff, the director of the German national team, hinted at the time the door was open for both Hummels and Mueller but said later there was “no discussion” about recalling Hummels for November’s final Euro 2020 qualifiers.

Regardless of the Euro 2020 finals, Hummels and Mueller could yet feature at a major tournament having been named in the preliminary squad for the Germany team to play at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

AFP

England To Host Italy In Euro 2020 Warm-Up

England’s forward Harry Kane (C) speaks with the referees during a temporary interruption of the Euro 2020 Group A football qualification match between Bulgaria and England due to incidents with fans, at the Vasil Levski National Stadium in Sofia on October 14, 2019. NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

 

England will step up their preparations for the Euro 2020 finals with a friendly against Italy at Wembley in March, the Football Association announced on Monday.

Gareth Southgate’s men will face the four-time world champions on Friday, March 27 before a match four days later against Denmark, also at Wembley.

England will then travel to play Austria in Vienna on June 2 before hosting Romania on June 7 at a venue in England that has yet to be confirmed.

The Italy game is designated as “The Heads Up International” in support of the FA’s charitable partnership with Prince William’s Heads Together mental health initiative.

England will face Croatia and the Czech Republic in Group D at Euro 2020 as well as the winner of the play-off path featuring Scotland, Israel, Norway and Serbia.

All three fixtures will be played at Wembley.

Italy, European champions in 1968, have been placed in Group A at next year’s finals and will play all three of their pool games, against Turkey, Switzerland and Wales, in Rome.

AFP

Euro 2020: Portugal Drawn With France, Germany

A board displays the groups and Spanish football player Iker Casillas (R) during the UEFA Euro 2020 football competition final draw in Bucharest on November 30, 2019. Fabrice COFFRINI / AFP

 

 

Reigning European champions Portugal will come up against World Cup winners France and Germany in the standout group at Euro 2020 following Saturday’s draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

Neither France nor Portugal were in Pot One for the 24-team competition being held in 12 cities across Europe, making them the teams to avoid for the top seeds.

The section, Group F, will be completed by one of the winners of the play-offs to be played next March.

See the draw for the group stage of the Euro 2020 finals, to be played from June 12-July 12, made in Bucharest on Saturday:

Group A

Turkey

Italy

Wales

Switzerland

Group B

Denmark

Finland

Belgium

Russia

Group C

Netherlands

Ukraine

Austria

Winner of play-off Path D or Romania should they qualify (home games in Bucharest)

Group D

England

Croatia

Winner of play-off Path C

Czech Republic

Group E

Spain

Sweden

Poland

Winner of play-off Path B

Group F

Winner of play-off Path A or Path D (if Romania win Path A)

Portugal

France

Germany

Note: Remaining four teams to qualify through UEFA Nations League play-offs in March

UEFA To Sell One Million Tickets For Euro 2020 In December

French supporters wave flags and cheer prior to the kick off of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group H football match between France and Andorra on September 10, 2019 at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, near Paris.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

One million tickets for Euro 2020 will go on sale to supporters in December, UEFA confirmed on Saturday ahead of the draw for the tournament in Bucharest.

While the format of the tournament, with 12 cities across the continent hosting matches, has come in for criticism, UEFA reported “very strong demand” for tickets when they first went on sale in June and July this year.

A total of 19.3 million requests were made for the 1.5 million tickets on sale during that period, out of a total of three million.

The latest wave of tickets will go on sale to supporters of the 20 teams who have already qualified from Wednesday, December 4 at 1300 GMT up until December 18 for a competition that will begin in Rome on June 12 and conclude with the final in London on July 12.

In between, matches will be played from Bilbao and Dublin to Saint Petersburg and to Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

READ ALSO: Gunmen Attack FC Ifeanyi Ubah Players In Kogi

“We said that this Euro will have a different flavour, a European flavour, and we want to take this festival all over Europe,” UEFA’s deputy general secretary, Giorgio Marchetti, said at a press conference.

“That is why we are not afraid and the big success of ticket sales earlier this year demonstrates that people have a real appetite and real desire for this tournament.”

The cheapest tickets will cost 30 euros ($33) for games in Baku, Bucharest and Budapest, and 50 euros elsewhere.

Meanwhile, UEFA expressed hope that the tournament will not be marred by incidents of racism such as those during England’s win in Bulgaria in qualifying in October.

“In our experience, the Euro has been always a very festive event, at least within the stadiums, so we are confident this atmosphere will take priority over stupid and sometimes criminal things which from time to time happen in football,” said Marchetti.

If needed, UEFA will stick to their so-called three-step procedure to help officials deal with racist incidents in stadiums.

The procedure first involves announcements being made within stadiums asking supporters to stop any racist behaviour. If that fails, referees can suspend games and take players off the pitch, before abandoning matches as a last resort.

AFP

Winks, Mount Net First England Goals In Kosovo Rout

England’s Harry Winks (C) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying Group A football match between Kosovo and England in Prishtina on November 17, 2019.
Robert ATANASOVSKI / AFP

 

England wrapped up their impressive Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 4-0 rout of Kosovo on Sunday as maiden international goals from Harry Winks and Mason Mount ensured they will be among the top six seeds in next year’s tournament.

Gareth Southgate’s side booked their Euro 2020 berth by thrashing Montenegro 7-0 on Thursday and they finished a dominant run by dispatching Kosovo in Pristina thanks to goals from Winks, Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mount.

Although England weren’t at their best, it was a rewarding finale for the Group A winners, who clinched the high seeding that should help them avoid a tough group in the finals.

Winks’ maiden England goal, in his sixth appearance, was the key moment before second-half strikes from Kane and Rashford and Mount’s first international goal.

READ ALSO: Defending Champions Portugal Qualify For Euro 2020

With all three of their Euro 2020 group games and the semi-finals and final being played at home for England, the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists will go into the November 30 draw as one of the main contenders for the trophy.

In contrast to the racist abuse that marred England’s qualifiers in Montenegro and Bulgaria, the gratitude still felt in Kosovo for the United Kingdom’s involvement in the country’s liberation, after the Kosovan war in the 1990s, was clear to see.

Before kick-off, the stadium announcer addressed the crowd with the words: “We always appreciate your support in the most difficult days. Twenty years on, we are here as equals. God bless you England.”

Kosovo supporters shouted the names of the England players and held up the flag of St George cards.

The loudest cheers were reserved for Sterling, who was back in the England team after the winger was dropped against Montenegro following his clash with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez in the canteen of England’s training base on Monday.

Sterling had England’s first sight of goal when he took Kane’s pass and made space for a stinging strike that drew a solid save from Arijanet Muric.

Kane Milestone

With footing on the Fadil Vokrri Stadium pitch proving difficult, England struggled to find their rhythm at times and Kosovo’s Milot Rashica took advantage to test Burnley keeper Nick Pope, who was making his first start.

Winks supplied the breakthrough in the 32nd minute when the Tottenham midfielder ran onto Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s pass, evaded the obligingly slow-to-react Kosovo defence and slotted home with ease.

Throughout a comfortable qualifying campaign, the main concern for Southgate has been England’s erratic defending and they were nearly exposed when Amir Rrahmani was left unmarked to head just wide early in the second half.

That shaky rearguard creaked again moments later as Rrahmani found himself in acres of space but headed woefully wide with the goal at his mercy.

England’s class told in the second half and Kane hit the post with a snap-shot from Sterling’s pass.

The same pair linked up for a milestone second goal in the 79th minute.

Sterling eased past his marker and sent in a deflected cross that England captain Kane finished off at the far post.

Kane has netted in all eight qualifiers and is the first England player for over 90 years to score 12 international goals in a calendar year.

It was also England’s 35th goal of the qualifying campaign, breaking their previous record total from the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

There was still time for Rashford to slot home from Sterling’s pass in the 83rd minute before Mount took Kane’s delivery and coolly finished in stoppage time.

AFP

Defending Champions Portugal Qualify For Euro 2020

Portugal’s forward Cristiano Ronaldo (C) celebrates with team members after scoring a goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Group B qualification football match between Luxembourg and Portugal at the Josy Barthel Stadium in Luxembourg on November 17, 2019.
JOHN THYS / AFP

 

Cristiano Ronaldo scored his 99th international goal as reigning champions Portugal secured their place at the Euro 2020 finals on Sunday with a 2-0 victory away to Luxembourg.

Bruno Fernandes struck the opening goal on 39 minutes before Ronaldo tapped in a scrappy second late on to clinch second place in Group B behind winners Ukraine, who drew 2-2 in Serbia.

Portugal became the 17th nation to qualify for next year’s multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, joining the likes of world champions France, Spain, Italy, and England.

“We can’t give the match-high marks for style,” said Portugal coach Fernando Santos, who admitted the heavy pitch made life challenging for his team.

READ ALSO: AFCON 2021 Qualifiers: Nigeria Fight Back To Beat Lesotho

“I’m very happy for my players because the qualifying campaign has been more difficult than we expected.

“We’re through to the finals of a major tournament for an 11th straight time. You’ve got to believe in these players.”

Portugal knew they would book their place at Euro 2020 with a win or by matching Serbia’s result from their game in Belgrade.

But they were made to work hard by a Luxembourg team ranked 96th in the world that notably held France to a 0-0 draw in 2018 World Cup qualifying.

Sporting Lisbon midfielder Fernandes broke the deadlock before half-time, controlling Bernardo Silva’s pinpoint pass expertly before lashing in from 20 yards.

Ronaldo, who smacked in a hat-trick in Thursday’s 6-0 thrashing of Lithuania, moved to the brink of his international century four minutes from time.

Silva’s far-post cross was forced towards goal by Diogo Jota, with Luxembourg goalkeeper Anthony Moris getting a hand to the ball before Ronaldo turned in from the goalline.

Iranian striker Ali Daei holds the world record with 109 international goals scored between 1993 and 2006.

AFP

Euro 2020 Takes Shape As Netherlands, Germany And Croatia Qualify

 

The Netherlands, Germany and World Cup finalists Croatia expanded a list of big hitters to qualify for Euro 2020 on Saturday as the trio booked their places at next summer’s finals.

Austria also made it through to the multi-host tournament, which kicks off in Rome on June 12, with 16 sides now ensured of a spot at the 24-team event and only four places remaining from the main qualifying route.

They join other big names such like world champions France, Spain, Italy and England, with European champions Portugal one win away from qualification.

Ronald Koeman’s resurgent Dutch needed a point to qualify for their first major tournament since coming third at the 2014 World Cup and got what they needed in a scrappy goalless draw with Northern Ireland in Belfast.

“It means a lot for us as players. Hopefully it means so much to the Dutch people,” Liverpool defender Van Dijk said.

However they were far from the flamboyant outfit that has so often thrilled in Group C, and survived a huge scare when Steven Davis smashed a first-half penalty high over the bar.

The Dutch dominated possession and stopped the hosts from having a single shot on target but failed to create much themselves.

Davis’ spot-kick blunder left Michael O’Neill’s side third and hoping for a way into the tournament via the playoffs.

Germany join the Dutch

The draw allowed fierce rivals Germany to move top in the group as Toni Kroos hit a brace in a simple 4-0 win over Belarus in Moenchengladbach which saw them qualify for the Euros for the 13th time in a row.

A deft back-heeled goal from defender Matthias Ginter just before the break and impressive finishing by Leon Goretzka and Kroos gave the Germans a comfortable three-goal lead early in the second half.

Captain Manuel Neuer produced a superb save to keep out Belarus striker Igor Stasevich’s penalty before Kroos dribbled through the defence to claim his second goal seven minutes from time and make sure of a routine win.

“Overall we did well, but at the moment I don’t include us among the favourites for the European title,” said Kroos, echoing coach Joachim Loew’s comments from earlier in the week.

A win over Northern Ireland in Frankfurt on Tuesday will guarantee Loew’s new-look side first place.

Croatia survived a scare to secure their place in the Euros after coming from behind beat Slovakia 3-1 in Rijeka.

The World Cup runners up needed just a point to ensure qualification from Group E but Robert Bozenik stunned the home crowd when he tapped the away side ahead in the 32nd minute.

However it was one-way traffic in the second half and Croatia’s qualification was never in doubt once Nikola Vlasic drilled home the leveller.

Bruno Petkovic headed the hosts in front and Ivan Perisic sealed the three points with a thumping finish with 16 minutes left.

“We were trying to stay calm in the dressing room at half-time, we were sure that our quality would prevail. We kept attacking, creating chances, and the goals came,” said Petkovic.

Wales with fighting chance

That win gives Wales a fighting chance of qualifying after their 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan earlier on Saturday.

Ryan Giggs’ side stay third thanks to first-half headed goals from Kieffer Moore and Harry Wilson and Slovakia losing against the Croats.

They are just one point behind second-placed Hungary, who travel to Cardiff on the final day for a winner-takes-all clash.

“It’s massive for us to get the three points and now we go again Tuesday,” said Moore. “We came here for the three points and we got them — now it’s all guns blazing towards Tuesday.”

Austria booked their place with a 2-1 win over North Macedonia that kept third-placed Slovenia at bay despite their 1-0 triumph over Latvia.

They are second in Group G behind Poland, who had already qualified going into this round of games but maintained a three-point lead at the top of the group thanks to a 2-1 win at Israel.

In Saint Petersburg, the Hazard brothers made short work of Russia as already-qualified Belgium maintained their 100 percent record with a 4-1 win that secured them top spot in Group I.

Eden and Thorgan Hazard put Roberto Martinez’s side three goals ahead at the break before in-form Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku crashed home the fourth in the 72nd minute to make absolutely sure of the result.