England teams across sports finally value rewards that come with risk | Andrew Anthony


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Gareth Southgate has led a revolution that has produced better results and entertainment while England’s cricketers have also benefited from a more aggressive attitude

Among the myriad skills that are employed in different sports one that is shared by all is risk assessment. Though it sounds like some dark art practised by insurance agents, it is the basic cost-benefit analysis that most competitors make intuitively and upon which all coaches are fixated. Namely, does a given action increase the likelihood of gaining an advantage more than it increases the likelihood of suffering a setback? That is the question a full-back has to ask each time he sprints down the wing. Or a tennis player when she rushes the net.

And overall it is this matter that governs how a sport is played: the style, attitude, tactics and strategy. You can see this most clearly with football and cricket, two sports Continue reading “England teams across sports finally value rewards that come with risk | Andrew Anthony”

Karen Carney: ‘Playing at a World Cup is your dream, don’t fear it, embrace it’ | Suzanne Wrack


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The Chelsea midfielder is yet to start a game for England in France but expect that to change as the knockout stages begin for a player Phil Neville treasures

At her second World Cup, Karen Carney is one of the most experienced players in Phil Neville’s side. She is also the most calming presence, on and off the pitch.

“I didn’t pick Carney for 12 months,” Neville said before the tournament. “She was coming back from injury, other players had taken their opportunities – she’s been on standby lists for three or four squads. But then she came in for the Austria and Sweden camp in November. Then we took her to Qatar and it was in Qatar where I thought: ‘Yep, she’s coming to the World Cup.’ Her influence on and off the field, her performance levels for Chelsea, in the big games, the big moments; she’s a Continue reading “Karen Carney: ‘Playing at a World Cup is your dream, don’t fear it, embrace it’ | Suzanne Wrack”

International men’s football: talking points from the week’s action


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Nations League positives for Portugal and even England, dismay for David de Gea and Kosovo’s Euro 2020 qualifying joy

The numbed anticlimax of Sunday’s third-place play-off ensured the lingering impression of England’s Nations League campaign was one of deflation, as if any hint of progress over the last year had been a mirage. In truth, it was hard to gauge improvements given the disruptions caused by the Champions League and Europa League finals. There were promising passages in each game and periods when the team rather lost their way. But development could be measured in the impact made by Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez, or by Jadon Sancho and Declan Rice in flashes. Another semi-final was lost but a second successive penalty shootout was won. The squad unity that had been a feature at the World Cup was maintained, with an injection of youth offering promise for the future. This Continue reading “International men’s football: talking points from the week’s action”

England’s winners and losers during the Nations League campaign | Dominic Fifield


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Trent Alexander-Arnold and Joe Gomez did their cases no harm in Portugal and Harry Winks strengthened his in absentia

Sunday afternoon at the Estádio D Afonso Henriques stadium and Gareth Southgate found himself once again fielding questions over the level of perceived progress in the year since the World Cup finals. England’s Nations League campaign had delivered another semi-final defeat but a first third-place finish in 51 years, no goals mustered from open play but a second successive penalty shootout success. “But the biggest sign of progress was the mentality of everyone after the loss to the Netherlands,” the manager said. “Once we’d calmed all the emotion, the theories as to why we’d lost, the drive was there. We weren’t satisfied and everyone wanted to make sure it was beyond a semi-final next time. That’s the healthiest sign for me.”

Southgate will attend the Under‑21 European Championship in Italy Continue reading “England’s winners and losers during the Nations League campaign | Dominic Fifield”

Spurs’ Dele Alli insists he improved last season despite fewer goals and assists


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• Tottenham midfielder endured injury-hit campaign
• ‘Defensively, in possession, I’ve improved on that,’ says Alli

Dele Alli insists he became a better player last season despite his overall numbers – appearances, goals and assists – suggesting otherwise.

The midfielder endured a stop-start campaign for club and country owing to hamstring and thigh muscle injuries. He featured 38 times in all competitions for Tottenham, scoring seven goals and assisting a further eight, compared with 50 appearances, 14 goals and 17 assists during the 2017-18 season.

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England and Spurs need to recognise that a half-fit Harry Kane is no use | Barney Ronay


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Club and country must ease the burden on the striker who was rushed back from injury for the Champions League final and then unnecessarily taken to Portugal

With one minute gone in England’s Nations League play-off game in Guimarães, Harry Kane did something brilliant. Jordan Pickford launched a hard, flat pass from his own six-yard box. Kane saw it coming, crept back along the line of the centre circle, then executed a kind of cushioned capoeira‑roundhouse layoff into the path of Jesse Lingard.

Lingard waited a beat, scanning his options. Kane made the choice for him, surging on ahead, pointing where he wanted the ball, then dinking a brilliantly conceived back-spun chip over Switzerland’s Yann Sommer and on to the crossbar.

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England’s Raheem Sterling digs deeps but to no avail in pointless cause | Sean Ingle


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Sterling, in his 58th game of the season, and teammates look jaded against Swiss – they should have been on the beachOn a soporific summer’s day in Guimarães one word reverberated in the mind like a mantra. Why? Why were England playing in one of the more pointless matches in international football history, when they should have been on the beach? Why were they also forced to play extra-time in a third-place playoff rather than going straight to penalties? And why – given all that puff and manpower – did Uefa not even deign them with a medal ceremony? Instead England’s bronze medals were given to them in a bag in their changing room afterwards.

That tells you a lot about how Uefa viewed this Nations League playoff. And while England and Switzerland’s players cared more, they also approached the game with a certain realpolitik. So while Gareth Southgate’s Continue reading “England’s Raheem Sterling digs deeps but to no avail in pointless cause | Sean Ingle”

England hero Jordan Pickford savours scoring in penalty shoot-out win – video


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Jordan Pickford reveals he was nervous before stepping up for his penalty against Switzerland, but weeks of practise prepared him to become England’s first goalkeeper to take one in a competitive game. Pickford emerged as an unlikely saviour when he scored one penalty and saved another in the shoot-out win over Switzerland to claim third place in the inaugural Nations League.

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England’s Gareth Southgate: ‘None of us is satisfied’ with third-place finish’


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• Manager says players committed to reaching higher levels
• Unhappy medals left in changing room rather than presented

Gareth Southgate has admitted a sense of dissatisfaction at England’s third‑place finish at the Nations League, a sentiment shared by his players who will use that as motivation in preparation for the European Championship next summer.

Jordan Pickford’s penalty save from Josip Drmic in the shootout secured the national team’s best finish at a competitive tournament in 51 years after a goalless draw dominated by England in Guimarães.

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Jordan Pickford saves the day as England beat Switzerland on penalties


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This was a game too far, long before it drifted apologetically into extra time, or culminated in a penalty shootout relatively devoid of tension in the Portuguese sun. It was a fixture which had felt more like a prolonged appeal for the season finally to finish but, in the end, it was claimed by England. Jordan Pickford’s save, diving to his right to push away Josip Drmic’s attempt from the spot, ensured Gareth Southgate’s team have finished an uplifting campaign on a high.

They had come to Guimaraes hoping to secure the inaugural Nations League, of course, and the bag of bronze medals which awaited them back in the dressing room would still feel like an unsatisfactory prize. Yet this team still celebrated prevailing in the shootout – they are making a happy habit of that these days – and, had their slick attacking approach play been accompanied by some Continue reading “Jordan Pickford saves the day as England beat Switzerland on penalties”

England beat Switzerland on penalties to secure third place in Nations League – as it happened


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Gareth Southgate commits to England and rules out taking Chelsea job


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• England manager focused on 2020 European Championship
• Southgate confident his No 2, Steve Holland, will also stay putGareth Southgate has ruled himself out of a return to club football with Chelsea and expressed confidence his assistant, Steve Holland, will also remain with England as they target success at next year’s European Championship.

The pair are contracted until 2022, but would have featured on Chelsea’s shortlist to replace Maurizio Sarri, who should be named Juventus’s new head coach in the next few days.

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FA head of security warns of trouble before England’s October trip to Prague


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• Tony Conniford concerned over presence of far-right groups
• ‘Deeply embarrassed’ by scenes in Porto during Nations LeagueThe Football Association’s head of security has warned of more trouble when England travel to Prague to play the Czech Republic on a Friday night in October – and said the authorities may have to reconsider when to play such games in the future.

Tony Conniford admitted he was “deeply embarrassed” by the bad behaviour of a section of England fans who threw bottles at police in Porto and were abusive to locals – and conceded it could easily happen again the next time England travel abroad.

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England trips are being co-opted by the right but football has resisted before | Barney Ronay


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Tommy Robinson made an appearance in Guimarães on Thursday night and there are reports of England fans chanting his name in bars but together we can fight this influenceBack in the mid-1980s, when English football was a wild, rust-caked, occasionally frightening place, a group of Leeds United supporters noticed that the National Front had gained a small but significant foothold around Elland Road.

Football was seen as a fertile seeding ground for far-right politics. On matchdays the NF had begun to sell its magazine, Bulldog, outside the ground. They became a visible presence, gained a little traction, took a share of the day.

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John Stones’ failure to grow up has Gareth Southgate in defence mode


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Even at the age of 25 the England centre-back’s tendency to overelaborate and endanger his team is still worrying managersThere was a time, early in Gareth Southgate’s reign as England manager, when he made a point of telling his players that if they were not appearing for their club sides they could not expect to hold down their positions in the national team either.

Over time, that policy has clearly been abandoned as Southgate, like many of his predecessors, has realised it sounds good in theory but is not so easy in reality when he, for example, is an admirer of Fabian Delph, whose contribution for Manchester City in the Premier League since Boxing Day amounted to a 10-minute substitute appearance during a 3-0 win at bottom-of-the-league Huddersfield.

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Harry Kane admits England defeat hurts but everyone can learn from it


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• “This week could have been so different”
• Kane likely to start for England against SwitzerlandHarry Kane has bemoaned a painful week in which he saw hopes of winning the Champions League and Nations League dashed but has urged his England teammates to use their disappointment in Portugal as motivation at next summer’s European Championship.

The England captain made his first appearance in eight weeks after ankle ligament damage in Tottenham’s defeat by Liverpool in Madrid last Saturday. His leggy display betrayed a player shorn of match sharpness and he began the Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands on the bench, replacing the injured Marcus Rashford at half-time. The Dutch revival, with their victory completed in extra time, left Kane licking his wounds after a dismal six days.

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England hope Harry Winks will transform midfield exposed by De Jong


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• Steve Holland says Spurs man can knit together England’s play
• ‘He is a player we have very much been waiting for’England will bring Harry Winks back into the fold next season with a view to the Tottenham Hotspur player knitting together midfield and adding a new dimension to the team’s play in possession.

Winks would have been included in Gareth Southgate’s 23-man squad for the Nations League had the tail-end of his domestic campaign not been wrecked by a groin injury which required surgery. The 23-year-old was one of four players cut from the initial party, despite playing relatively impressively for more than an hour in the Champions League final defeat by Liverpool. That had constituted his first football in eight weeks.

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England fans say police raised batons amid ‘dangerous crushing’ at semi-final


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• Ticket system stopped working before Nations League game
• ‘No violence, just panic,’ says one England supporterEngland supporters have criticised the stadium authorities and Uefa for not doing enough to stop “dangerous crushing” after the electronic ticket system stopped working before the Nations League semi-final against the Netherlands.

Fans also criticised Portuguese police for failing to intervene when around 800 fans were penned by gates six and seven at the Estádio D. Afonso Henriques – and then raising batons at them when asked for help.

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Frenkie de Jong writes Netherlands script while Stones fluffs his lines| Barney Ronay


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Ronald Koeman’s side offer up a rousing performance but England centre-half comes unstuck in Nations LeagueThere was a moment of double-take deep into the second half of a steamy, slightly wild Nations League semi-final at the Estádio D Afonso Henriques. Frenkie de Jong took the ball in his own penalty area facing the Dutch goal and straight away heard the thundering hooves of Fabian Delph at his back, the white shirts sensing a turnover.

De Jong did something surprising. He slowed to a walk, floated left, half-turned, then flipped back the other way. Without looking up, but sure in his movements, he fizzed a hard, flat pass out 40 yards to a free orange shirt, the weight of the day, the breath of Delph, the dying moments of a semi-final, falling away from his shoulders like an evening mist.

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Gareth Southgate backs Stones and Barkley after errors against Netherlands


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• ‘John will get horrible criticism for that mistake’
• England to continue playing from the back

Gareth Southgate has thrown his support behind John Stones and Ross Barkley and insisted his team will continue to play the ball out short from the back after dreadful errors in extra time condemned England to their latest semi-final defeat to the Netherlands.

Sloppy mistakes in the added half-hour, with England still struggling to recover from the VAR ruling out a potential winner from Jesse Lingard for offside, cost Southgate’s team a Nations League defeat that bore similarities to the outcome against Croatia in the last four at the 2018 World Cup. A half-time lead had been surrendered again, with the Dutch dominating the ball and eventually capitalising on cataclysmic defensive mistakes.

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