International Roundup: England Hit Cruise Control, France Win Group, Portugal Seal Qualification

As qualification for Euro 2020 comes to an end, Sunday’s games have given us no shortage of discussion points.

There wasn’t a great lot at stake – unless you’re a Portugal or Serbia fan – but records were broken, goals were scored, and momentum was gained as we gear up for what should be a scintillating summer. 

Look no further for a breakdown of all of Sunday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers. 


Group A

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There was little to play for in Group A, with both England and the Czech Republic safe in the knowledge that their qualification was under no threat whatsoever. The Three Lions started the night well clear at the top, while Jaroslav Šilhavý’s side were just out of reach of trailing Kosovo. 

Still, there was work to be done yet, as both sides looked to go out with a bang and take some momentum with them into the finals.

For England, they travelled to Southeastern Europe to take on a Kosovo side buzzing off the back of a strong, if ultimately unsuccessful, campaign. They had given their visitors a bloody nose on their jaunt to the UK, losing 5-3 in the end, and had designs on doing the same again to sign off with a bang. 

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On home turf, once again they held their own, matching Gareth Southgate’s men for long spells. They found themselves worn down over 90 minutes, however, succumbing to a 4-0 defeat, with Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford and Mason Mount adding to Harry Winks’ first half opener inside the last ten minutes. 

Kane’s goal ensured he became the ​first-ever England player to score in every single match of a qualifying campaign, and put his side well on their way to another comprehensive, if hard-fought, victory. 

There was less to write home about in Bulgaria, meanwhile, as the Czech Republic stumbled, Vasil Bozhikov’s first-half strike the only goal in a smash-and-grab victory for the home side. 


Group B

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With Ukraine already through, attentions in Group B turned to the battle for the second qualifying spot, as a single point separated European champions Portugal and Serbia, who took on the group leaders looking to rein ​Cristiano Ronaldo and co back in. 

A win would have been required to ask the question, but in the end a draw was the best that could be mustered, with Artem Biesiedin’s 90th-minute equaliser pegging them back for the second time after Dusan Tadic, and later Aleksandar Mitrovic, had given them the lead. 

Even if they had escaped with all three points, however, it wouldn’t quite have been enough, since Portugal did enough (just) to see off Luxembourg. 

A tighter encounter than it had any right to be in Luxembourg City saw Bruno Fernandes open the scoring in the first half, before Ronaldo tapped home late on – ​his 99th international goal – to put the game to bed. 

Ukraine and Portugal advance ultimately, with Serbia missing out by three points.


Group H

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World champions France made their qualification harder than it had to be, but got there with a squeaky 2-1 victory over Moldova on Thursday, and had the chance to go through as group winners in their trip to Albania to round things out. 

They knew Turkey, starting the round two points behind them, would be hot on their tails, but wasted no time in brushing their hosts aside, with Corentin Tolisso and Antoine Griezmann putting the 2-0 win to bed inside half an hour.

Turkey did do their part, running out dominant 2-0 victors over Andorra. A double from Enes Unal was enough, but the emphatic nature of the victory was highlighted in the 80% possession they amassed over the 90 minutes. 

There was also a win for Iceland, who missed out despite their 19-point haul, as strikes from Birkir Bjranason and Gylfi Sigurdsson put bottom side Moldova to bed. 


For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!

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Why Norwich City Are Destined to Get Relegated This Season

Oh the Premier League. It offers hope and joy, only to extinguish it so quickly. 

Norwich fans understand this better than just about anyone, given just how quickly things have gotten out of control for them this season.

August arrives for those who have felt the pure ecstasy of promotion from the gloom of the Championship, and whilst some take to it like a duck to water, some are swept out to sea. For the Canaries, they are well and truly out of their depth, sinking to the seafloor like a rather large and useless rock. 

The Canaries lie at the foot of the Premier League table, having won only two of their 12 Premier League matches, and there are few signs to suggest that they are capable of rectifying their early-season shortcomings. 

Daniel Farke

It began relatively well for Daniel Farke’s side, winning two of their first five league outings, including a historic victory over an astonishing treble-winning ​Manchester City in a match that will live long in the memory. But it may have been a gift and a curse.

Since that day on 14 September, ​Norwich have picked up one ​Premier League point, losing six of their last seven matches. The goals that offered them hope have since ceased to exist, and the defensive cracks that were papered over by their stupendous victory over the champions were well and truly exposed.

The kamikaze style of play introduced by Farke earned Norwich promotion back to the big time, and the German saw no need to change – after all, if it ain’t broke, then don’t fix it. Oh but it was broke. Very, very broke.

Tom Trybull

Their gung-ho system, in which defending is yet to be discovered, leaves the Canaries woefully open at the back and has seen them ship 28 goals in just 12 games. To put this in to perspective, ​Liverpool and Man City both conceded fewer goals in the entirety of last season in the league. 

The injuries sustained this term sure haven’t helped, but can only excuse so much. Norwich failed to adequately bolster their ranks in the summer, bringing in only one out-and-out defender in the form of substitute full-back Sam Byram. Their lack of investment is proving incredibly costly with the step up in quality appearing far too much for them. 

I guess that’s alright if you’re scoring goals. But they’re not.

Teemu Pukki

The Canaries have scored only two goals in their last seven encounters, both of which were mere consolation strikes in substantial defeats to ​Aston Villa and ​Manchester United. Teemu Pukki – who scored six in his first five games and won August’s player of the month – has failed to net in two months of Premier League football, in which he has started every game. Even the surprise of the early season Todd Cantwell has found himself dropped in recent matches.

However, perhaps more worryingly, is the points they have dropped in ‘winnable games’. Their defeat in their last fixture against ​Watford, saw them officially hit bottom of the table, losing at home to a side who had failed to win a single league game all season. Oh, and Watford had a man sent off with half an hour still to play. When you add 2-0 away defeats to ​Brighton​Crystal Palace and ​Burnley, you begin to build a very depressing picture.

An upturn in form seems no nearer. In fact, it appears to be getting further and further away. 

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The next three matches for Norwich could be pivotal. They face three sides who themselves are struggling form – ​Everton​Arsenal and ​Southampton. It could potentially be the beginning of a fairy-tale resurgence, or more likely, three more nails in Norwich’s coffin. 

Norwich’s gargantuan task of Premier League survival is a daunting one. Unless there is significant investment in January, or a rapid change in performance levels, it would appear that the Canaries may already be dead in the mine.

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2 Positives & 2 Negatives From Wolves’ Season So Far

​Looking at Wolves’ position in the Premier League table and considering their success in the Europa League so far, you can imagine that they are very happy with their season so far.

The Molineux side sit eighth in the league having won only three times this season and drawing another seven. Raul Jimenez has continued his goalscoring form from last season and Adama Traore has looked like the player he was tipped to be all those years ago.

Jonny Otto

Yet, things might have been even better for ​Wolves had they turned some of those draws into wins. They’re no doubt going to challenge for the Europa League spots again but, given how well Leicester are doing, Wolves might be guilty of a jealous, wistful glance at their rivals over on the other side of the midlands.

Let’s have a look at some of the positives and negatives from Wolves’ season so far.


Positive – Fighting on Two Fronts

Qualifying for the Europa League last season was a huge success for Wolves but there were fears that they wouldn’t be able to perform domestically as well as continentally, with the likes of Burnley suffering from the added fixtures. 

However, they’ve proved the doubters wrong.

Vernon De Marco

Wolves sit comfortably eighth in the Premier League and are undefeated in their last seven league games – including a highly impressive 2-0 win over ​Manchester City at the Etihad. 

Meanwhile in the Europa League they sit second in Group K, five points clear of third place and in a good place to qualify for the knockout stages. 

Europe obviously agrees with some better than others.


Negative – Draw After Draw After Draw

Willy Boly

Wolves have drawn seven of their 12 ​Premier League games so far – a league high. All of these draws, interestingly, have been 1-1 except for the opening day of the season when they drew 0-0 with Leicester.

If Wolves were able to convert some of these draws into wins then they would be in a much more commanding position – and possibly challenging for top four rather than the top seven. 


Positive – Adama Traore’s Form

Adama Traore has always been a mercurial player, capable of beating his man but then absolutely shinning it into Row Z. This season, however, the former La Masia starlet has shown the form Wolves fan have wanted to see.

Adama Traore

Most will remember his brace at the Etihad which secured a famous 2-0 away win and put a huge dent in Manchester City’s title challenge but, beyond that, he has provided a couple of assists and looks like a constant menace down the right side of Wolves attack.


Negative – Where Are The Summer Signings?

Wolves certainly didn’t have the busiest of summer transfer windows but many praised their savviness, especially with the signing of AC Milan’s Patrick Cutrone. However, we are yet to see the best from the Italian who has only scored once in the Premier League – during a 5-2 home defeat to Chelsea. 

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They also acquired Spanish centre back Jesus Vallejo on loan and 19 year-old Pedro Neto through their contacts with super agent Jorge Mendes. However, these two have also been disappointing with Vallejo being exposed during that 5-2 loss.

Wolves have a relatively thin squad as it is and there will be huge disappointment at Molineux if the three signings continue to fail to impress after moving to the Midlands.​


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2 Positives and 3 Negatives From Watford’s Season So Far

​A lot has been made about Watford’s start to the Premier League season, as they went 11 (yes, eleven) games without a victory before securing a 2-0 away win at Norwich before the international break.

You would think, therefore, that everything this season has been pretty negative for the Hornets. Ah, but you’re wrong. 

True, more things have been negative than positive but there is still light at the end of the tunnel for the Hertfordshire club. 

Ben Foster

The Hornets currently sit 18th in the table following that first win. It is a huge decline from this time last season and Quique Sanchez Flores has quite the job on his hands to steer the club away from a relegation battle.

Here are two positives and three negatives from Watford’s start to the Premier League season.


Negative: Set for a Relegation Scrap

It can’t be denied – Watford’s season so far has been a huge shock. They’re sat in 18th and have been rooted to the foot of the table for most of the season so far.

Craig Dawson

This is a team that finished 11th last season, went to the FA Cup final and have been a Premier League mainstay for five seasons now. Yet, their awful form under ex-manager Javi Gracia has left them in this predicament​.

They’re going to be in a relegation dog-fight whether they like it or not. Eight points after 12 games is relegation form – and they need more wins soon to pull them out of the bottom three.


Positive: But They’re Not Bottom…

There is a positive from ​Watford being 18th and that’s the fact that they’re not bottom anymore – having leapfrogged Norwich and ​Southampton.

Kelly Cates,Gerard Deulofeu,Gary Neville

Given that they’ve won only once all season it is somewhat surprising that the Hornets aren’t still 20th. This is arguably testament to the amount of decent draws they’ve had – like the 1-1 away at Tottenham and a 2-2 comeback against Arsenal at Vicarage Road.

The Yellows will hope their stay at the bottom of the league is now over.​


Negative: Goals? Anyone?…

The league’s lowest scorers and the only team not to have reached double figures in the Premier League this season. Watford have scored a total of eight goals all season…Manchester City scored eight against them in one game alone.​

Gerard Deulofeu

Prior to the Norwich game, none of Watford’s squad had scored more than once all season. That, thankfully, changed as both Gerard Deulofeu and Andre Gray moved onto two goals for the season.

Still, come on lads, eight goals all season?


Positive: Return of Quique Sanchez Flores

Yes, Javi Gracia got Watford to the FA Cup final and 11th in the table but do you know how bad Watford were at the end of last season? No? Well they only managed to beat relegated duo Huddersfield and Fulham in the last nine Premier League games.

Quique Sanchez Flores

Flores was brought in to replace Gracia, whose tactics were simply not working. 

The returning Spaniard changed the formation and the tactics at Watford and slowly they are working, evidenced by the win over Norwich and the away draw at Tottenham.

The Spaniard comfortably kept a much worse Watford side up in their return season to the Premier League back in 2015/16. It bodes well for the club that they have him back at the helm.​


Negative: A Fall From Gracia

As has been mentioned a few times, this Watford team ​went to the FA Cup final last season and pushed for Europa League spot before falling away at the end of the season. They eventually finished 11th and many predicted them to do the same this season.

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That, simply, has not happened. Last season’s top performers like Abdoulaye Doucouré and Roberto Pereyra seemed shellshocked after the thrashing in the FA Cup final and that has continued into this season.

Reaching that FA Cup final might have been the worse thing to happen to Watford…

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Harry Kane Breaks Another England Record as Tottenham Striker Finds the Net Against Kosovo

It’s difficult to keep coming up with superlatives for the form of Harry Kane, particularly at international level. 

Against Kosovo, he took his England total to 29 goals in just 44 games, putting him a strike closer to the heights reached by Three Lions’ top scorers ​Wayne Rooney, Bobby Charlton and Gary Lineker – and he’s only just hitting his prime years.

While Kane’s still got some way to go to top Rooney’s record 53 goals for England, he set a record of his own on Sunday night.

Marcus Rashford,Harry Kane

In scoring in his country’s final qualifier of the Euro 2020 campaign – his 12th goal in just eight matches – Kane became the first-ever England player to score in every match of a qualifying campaign. 

The remarkable run was kicked off against the Czech Republic back in March and incorporated hat-tricks against Bulgaria and Montenegro, as his side stormed to seven wins from eight to qualify for the tournament.

Registering four assists, ​Kane contributed to twice as many goals as he did make appearances in qualifying, further bolstering his reputation as one of the most feared strikers on the international scene. 

Kane remains England’s sixth top scorer of all time, his 29th goal putting him to within 11 goals of Michael Owen in fifth. 

Michael Owen

The ultimate goal will be overtaking Rooney, whose 53 goals are the benchmark for any prospective Three Lions striker. 

Kane has some way to go before that one, but after winning the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup, he will be confident of adding a few to his tally at the Euro 2020 finals.

At just 26, there will likely be another couple of major tournaments – as well as the accompanying qualifying campaigns – in which to keep the records coming. 


For more from Robbie Copeland, follow him on Twitter!

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