England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

England's players celebrate their side's second goal during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between England and Croatia at Wembley stadium in London. (AP)
Updated 18 November 2018

England avenge World Cup Croatia defeat to reach Nations League final four

  • Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from manager Southgate
  • England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead

LONDON: Harry Kane fired England into the Nations League semifinals as Gareth Southgate’s side scored twice in the last 12 minutes to seal a dramatic 2-1 victory over Croatia on Sunday.
England were on the brink of relegation to the second tier of the competition after Andrej Kramaric gave Croatia the lead against the run of play in the second half at Wembley.
But Southgate’s vibrant young side pulled off a stirring escape act in the closing stages to gain a measure of revenge for their World Cup semifinal defeat against Croatia earlier this year.
Jesse Lingard came off the bench to poach England’s equalizer and captain Kane was on hand to turn in the winner with five minutes left.
England’s fightback took them to the top of Group A4, above Spain and relegated Croatia, and they can look forward to playing in the last four in June next year.
It was a cathartic moment for England, who have made a habit of suffering painful defeats against Croatia, with this year’s World Cup woe following the 2007 loss that cost them a place at Euro 2008.
More importantly, the performance provided further tangible proof that Southgate is building a team capable of challenging for the major prizes after years of under-achievement.
England’s appearance in the semifinals of the Nations League, which are set to be held in Portugal next June, offers another chance to reach their first major final since 1966.
Following the 3-2 Nations League win over Spain in Seville last month, this tournament has been a serious statement of intent from Southgate’s team and they will go into 2019 with great expectations.
From start to finish, England were the dominant force, although they were fortunate to escape when Ante Rebic shot over after Jordan Pickford fumbled Fabian Delph’s backpass.
Kane slipped a perfectly-weighted pass through to Raheem Sterling and the Manchester City winger’s blistering pace sent him clear of the Croatia defense.
With only Lovre Kalinic to beat, Sterling let Croatia off the hook as he directed a hesitant shot straight at the keeper.
England kept probing intelligently, with the speed of Sterling and Marcus Rashford providing their main threat.
Delph’s pass sparked a frantic sequence, forcing Kalinic to dash out of his area to head away from Sterling.
When Kalinic’s clearance fell to Kane, the England captain’s effort was headed off the line by Tin Jedvaj.
The rebound fell to Kane, but Kalinic, by now back in his goal, used his legs to foil the Tottenham striker with a last-ditch save.
It was more of the same at the start of the second half, but once again England couldn’t find the killer touch.
That profligacy looked as though it would prove fatal when Croatia snatched the lead after 56 minutes.
Kramaric was allowed time and space to turn in the area and the Hoffenheim forward took full advantage, clipping a shot that deflected off Eric Dier and looped over Pickford’s despairing dive.
Southgate responded by sending on Lingard and the change reaped an instant reward as England equalized in the 78th minute.
Joe Gomez’s long throw was flicked on by John Stones and Kane prodded past Kalinic, leaving Lingard with the simple task of tapping in from virtually on the goal-line.
England’s deserved winner arrived in the 85th minute.
Ben Chilwell curled over a teasing low free-kick and Kane timed his run to perfection, guiding his shot past Kalinic from close-range.
Kane’s first goal in eight games for England sparked a wild celebration from Southgate, who leapt into the air as he punched the air on the touchline.
Kane had joked with his fiancee this week that he would cry if England ever win a trophy, but he couldn’t guarantee he would weep when they get married.
Thanks to their thrilling comeback, England could bring a tear to Kane’s eyes in the Finals next year.


German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

Updated 16 October 2019

German regional clubs probed after players mimic Turkish military salute

  • Three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media
  • The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France and Albania

BERLIN: At least five German regional football teams face disciplinary action after their players imitated the military salute performed by the Turkish national team during matches last weekend.
Germany has a Turkish population of around 2.5 million people and three teams in the Recklinghausen district, near Gelsenkirchen, will face a disciplinary committee after pictures posted on social media showed their players made the controversial salute to celebrate goals.
“In one case it was the whole team, in another case, it was five or six players,” Hans-Otto Matthey, the district chairman of the Westphalia Football and Athletics Association (FLVW), told AFP subsidiary SID.
Matthey hopes making the clubs accountable will discourage others in the region, which has a sizeable Turkish community, against repeating the gesture in this weekend’s matches.
“I predict that nobody else will have the nerve to repeat something like this,” he added.
There were also two further cases of teams in Bavaria making the salute. Both clubs are also set to face disciplinary measures.
The military gesture has become a hot topic after Turkey players saluted to celebrate goals during Euro 2020 qualifiers against France in Paris on Monday and on Friday against Albania.
The salute is seen as a reference to Turkey’s military operation against Kurdish militants in Syria, which has been condemned by both France and Germany.
Turkey’s sports minister Mehmet Muharrem Kasapoglu has described the controversial gesture as a “nice salute,” but European football’s ruling body UEFA is investigating the national team for the “potential provocative political behavior” of its players.
After the isolated incidents of saluting in Germany’s lower leagues, several regional governing bodies have taken a clear stance.
Both the Bavarian (BFV) and North German Football Associations (NFV) have warned players in their areas to expect “heavy penalties” for imitating the military salute, with other the associations in Berlin and Wurttemberg following suit.
“Insults and provocations have no place on or off the pitch and will not be tolerated,” an NFV football official told SID.
The German Football Association (DFB) took a similar stance last weekend.
Germany internationals Emre Can and Ilkay Gundogan, who have Turkish roots, apologized on Sunday after they both clicked ‘Like’ on a picture of the Turkish footballers saluting during Friday’s 1-0 win over Albania, which they later removed.
“We are against all forms of violence and discrimination,” said national team director Oliver Bierhoff.