Spain 5-0 Romania: La Roja cap off Euro 2020 qualifying in style

Gerard Moreno scored two and Fabian Ruiz got his first international goal as Spain thrashed sorry Romania in their last Euro 2020 qualifier.

Spain wrapped up their successful Euro 2020 qualification campaign in style with a rampant 5-0 victory over Romania in Madrid.

Robert Moreno’s side already had qualification and top spot in Group F secured heading into their final fixture and followed up a 7-0 demolition of Malta with another dominant display at the Wanda Metropolitano on Monday.

With the excellent Santi Cazorla having already hit the crossbar, Fabian Ruiz opened the scoring in the eighth minute. Gerard Moreno’s double then put Spain out of sight.

Adrian Rus’ own goal completed the first-half scoring, with substitute Mikel Oyarzabal picking out the bottom-left corner in the 91st minute to complete the rout.

Jose Gaya’s foul saw the hosts have a goal disallowed in the fifth minute, before Cazorla rattled the bar with a brilliant strike from 18 yards.

Spain’s dominance swiftly paid dividends, though – Fabian calmly side-footing home his first international goal after Ciprian Tatarusanu failed to hold Dani Carvajal’s effort.

 

Romania would have been level if not for Kepa Arrizabalaga’s save from George Puscas, and Spain made their goalkeeper’s work count when Gerard headed in from Cazorla’s exquisite first-time cross.

Cazorla was involved again when Gerard doubled his tally, playing a neat pass into Gaya, who crossed for the Villarreal forward to tuck in.

There was still time for Romania’s first half to get worse – Rus diverting Gerard’s cutback beyond Tatarusanu in the 45th minute.

Sergio Ramos looked set to make it 5-0 shortly after the break, only for Spain’s captain to volley over from close range.

Alvaro Morata seemed to have been forced wide moments later but managed to dig out an effort that clipped away off the post in the 55th minute.

Spain’s efforts to get a fifth were finally rewarded in stoppage time – Oyarzabal unleashing a crisp strike on the turn to round off La Roja’s qualification in fitting fashion.

 

What does it mean? Sparkling Spain look in good shape

Moreno has picked up seamlessly where former coach Luis Enrique left off and – after a dismal World Cup campaign – Spain, with a rejuvenated squad, are sure to be contenders for the top prize next year.

Evergreen Cazorla shines bright

Cazorla’s resurgence for Spain is a wonderful story and at this rate the midfielder – who will be 35 by the time the finals roll around – could well be one of Spain’s chief creators at Euro 2020.

The former Arsenal playmaker was desperately unlucky not to open the scoring early on, before teeing up Spain’s second with a delightful cross and playing a key part in La Roja’s third.

Hapless Romania ravaged at the back

Romania’s capital Bucharest is a host city for Euro 2020, but unless Cosmin Contra’s side display more resilience in defence than they did on Monday, they will have little hope of making it through the play-offs.

What’s next?

While Spain will begin preparations for Euro 2020 with friendlies in March, Romania will discover their play-off opponents on Friday.

 

Cologne bring in Markus Gisdol as part of reshuffle

Markus Gisdol has been confirmed as the new head coach of lowly Cologne, while Horst Heldt takes over as sporting director

Bundesliga strugglers Cologne have announced Markus Gisdol as their new head coach, while Horst Heldt has been appointed sporting director.

Gisdol has signed a contract that runs until June 2021 and replaces the recently sacked Achim Beierlorzer, who returned to work on Monday with German top-flight rivals Mainz.

Beierlorzer lost his final four games at the helm to leave Cologne 17th and at risk of relegation from the top tier.

Gisdol will be joined by a new sporting director in Heldt, who has also penned a one-and-a-half-year deal, in the hope major changes can lead to an upturn in fortunes.

 

Former Hoffenheim and Hamburg boss Gisdol told the club’s official website: “Cologne is a top club in German football.

“The current situation is not easy, but I know these challenges and I am totally convinced that we can overcome these. I want to help the team as quickly as possible, to come back to their undoubted potential.”

Cologne return to action after the international break with a trip to second-place RB Leipzig at the weekend.

 

Eden Hazard: ‘Stronger’ Belgium must improve on World Cup showing at Euro 2020

Belgium’s mentality has improved since the World Cup and they should be considered among the favourites for Euro 2020, says Eden Hazard

Eden Hazard believes Belgium will head to Euro 2020 stronger than ever and must improve on their third-place finish at the 2018 World Cup.

Roberto Martinez’s side have a 100 per cent record after nine games in qualifying for the European Championship and will seek to finish their campaign with a maximum 30 points against Cyprus on Tuesday.

The Red Devils finished third in last year’s World Cup and lead the FIFA rankings, and Hazard thinks they are better equipped for their next major tournament.

“We have two years more experience than at the World Cup, two more years with the coach,” said Real Madrid star Hazard.

“We know each other better, we have young players … I think we are stronger. We have developed the winning mentality that we didn’t have enough at Euro 2016 and the World Cup.

“But if we end up fourth in the European Championship then we will be less strong.”

 

Belgium have already been touted as potential Euro 2020 winners and Hazard says they deserve to be considered in that category.

“We are among the favourites, for sure,” added Hazard.

“But we are not alone. France, Italy, Spain, England are also serious opponents.”

 

Alex Marquez joins six-time MotoGP champion and brother Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda

Title-winning brothers Alex and Marc Marquez will ride together for Repsol Honda in 2020 after dominant seasons in Moto2 and MotoGP

Alex Marquez will make the step up to MotoGP for the 2020 season and join brother Marc Marquez at Repsol Honda.

Alex, 23, won the Moto2 title in 2019 and is now to follow in the footsteps of reigning MotoGP champion Marc.

Marc claimed the Moto2 championship in 2012, before topping the riders’ standings in six of his seven seasons in the premier class.

Honda have signed Alex to replace three-time MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo, who retired at the end of the season.

Alex has signed a one-year contract with the team as he prepares to ride the Honda RC213V in his debut campaign in the top category.

 

 

Osasuna head coach Jagoba Arrasate signs deal until 2022

After an impressive start to life back in LaLiga, Osasuna have tied down head coach Jagoba Arrasate until 2022

Osasuna head coach Jagoba Arrasate has signed a new deal that ties him to the club until 2022.

The 41-year-old took over at El Sadar in June 2018 and enjoyed a superb first season in charge, guiding the team back to LaLiga as Segunda Division champions.

Arrasate has overseen an impressive return to the top flight, with Osasuna sitting 10th in the table after collecting 19 points from their opening 13 games.

Osasuna, who have also extended the contracts of assistant coach Bittor Alkiza and fitness coach Sergi Perez, take on Athletic Bilbao on Sunday.

 

 

Germany not favourites for Euro 2020 – Joachim Low

Germany are behind England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium heading into Euro 2020, Joachim Low has claimed

Joachim Low does not believe Germany can be considered the favourites to win Euro 2020, claiming England, Spain, France, Italy and Belgium are all ahead of his side.

Germany booked their place at next year’s finals with a 4-0 win over Belarus on Saturday.

Their qualification follows a disappointing 2018 World Cup, when the defending champions slumped out in the group stage, and only avoiding relegation in the Nations League due to the competition being restructured.

Germany’s squad has undergone a reshuffle over the past year, with Mats Hummels, Jerome Boateng and Thomas Muller no longer considered for selection, while Mesut Ozil retired from international football, alleging discrimination and disrespect by the German Football Association.

Low’s side have won six out of seven qualifiers for Euro 2020, scoring 24 goals in the process, but the coach believes other sides are ahead in terms of their development heading into the tournament.

“I think, we can be satisfied with the year,” Low told a news conference ahead of Tuesday’s final qualifier against Northern Ireland.

“When it comes to the development as a whole, there are surely other nations who are ahead of us. England, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium – those teams had been forced into a big transformation before, because during the last big tournaments, like England for example, they exited early a few times.

 

“Therefore, those teams have been playing together for three, four years now. The same goes for Netherlands, who have had a well-adjusted team for three, four years.

“That’s not the case for us at the moment, which is why I don’t see us as the favourites for this tournament. But one thing is for sure, that we’ll try everything, prepare well and that we want to reach the maximum during the tournament.”

Low is still largely undecided on the squad he will be selecting for Euro 2020, with two likely candidates – Niklas Sule and Leroy Sane – currently out with long-term injuries.

“No idea. I don’t know what it’ll be next year,” Low said.

“Yesterday some of the injured players were here with us. But then there are more players like Sule and Sane who are doing rehab, where we don’t know how they’re going to be.

“It’s also important for me, in what shape players are in January, February or March. And then during the months to follow, who’s able to play, who’s in a good rhythm. There are certainly a couple of decisions which I can’t answer today.”

Krzysztof Piatek aiming to be worth €70m by the time he leaves AC Milan

Krzysztof Piatek is determined to double in value during his time at AC Milan, despite a difficult start to the 2019-20 season

AC Milan striker Krzysztof Piatek wants to be worth as much as €70million by the time he eventually leaves the club.

Piatek signed for Milan in January after enjoying an extraordinary start to life in Serie A at Genoa.

The Poland striker scored 13 league goals in 19 appearances during the first half of the 2018-19 season, leading to a big-money move for a reported fee of €35m.

He had no trouble maintaining his form following his switch to San Siro – scoring a further nine league goals – but has failed to recapture those levels so far this campaign, netting just three times.

However, Piatek remains confident in his ability to succeed with the Rossoneri.

“When I moved to Milan it all happened so fast that I didn’t even ask questions,” the 24-year-old, who scored in Poland’s 2-1 win over Israel on Saturday, told television channel TVP Sport.

 

“I was focused on work, in football yes, it’s always about setting new goals. Now I’m worth €38m, the next time I change clubs, I’d like to be worth €60-70m.

“I have to be ambitious, I’ll work for it, I’m at the beginning of my career, it’s only my second season in Serie A, one of the top five leagues [in Europe].”

Piatek also believes the reaction of the Italian press to his loss of form has made matters more difficult at Milan, who sacked coach Marco Giampaolo earlier in the season and currently languish down in 14th place in the table.

“I look in the mirror and look for the blame inside of me. At the beginning, as a team, we didn’t create so many opportunities. We’re improving, I’m going to score again,” he said during the interview.

“For Italian journalists, one day you’re the soccer pope and the next day you’re the worst player.

“I accept it. Nobody put themselves in my shoes, the covers of the newspapers don’t impact me.”

James Rodriguez Clasico participation in doubt as Real Madrid confirm knee injury

James Rodriguez looks set to miss the first Clasico of the season after Real Madrid confirmed the playmaker had sprained a knee ligament

Real Madrid have confirmed James Rodriguez has sustained a knee injury, which could reportedly rule him out of next month’s Clasico against Barcelona.

James has been brought back into the fold by Zinedine Zidane this season after spending two years on loan at Bayern Munich.

The Colombia playmaker – who suffered a calf strain earlier in the campaign – has made nine appearances in all competitions, starting five times, though last featured for Zidane’s side in a Champions League victory over Galatasaray on October 22.

However, James could now be set to miss up to six weeks after Madrid announced the 28-year-old has sprained a ligament in his left knee.

 

Madrid’s statement, released on the club’s official website, did not place a timeframe on James’ recovery, stating the midfielder would continue to be assessed.

Los Blancos face rivals Barca – who currently lead LaLiga on goal difference – on December 18 in the rearranged Clasico at Camp Nou, which was postponed due to political unrest in Catalonia.

 

Achim Beierlorzer takes Mainz job nine days after Cologne sacking

Achim Beierlorzer

Sacked by Cologne earlier this month, Achim Beierlorzer has now been appointed by Mainz as their new head coach.

Achim Beierlorzer has been named the new Mainz head coach just nine days after being sacked by Bundesliga rivals Cologne.

The 51-year-old has signed a contract until the end of the 2021-22 season, having been dismissed by Cologne in the wake of a four-game losing run that started with a 3-1 loss to Mainz last month.

Beierlorzer takes over from Sandro Schwarz, who departed after a 3-2 home defeat to Union Berlin that left Mainz in 16th place in the table.

“It’s funny how football can work out; a week ago I was still at Cologne and now I’m head coach here at Mainz,” Beierlorzer told his new club’s website. “Things can happen quickly in this business, especially when you come to an agreement so easily.

“Mainz is a special club with a great history, which I really respect. It’s a team with a very clear football philosophy and it’s one I totally agree with – we want to play a fast game with lots of running and we want to play with a lot of passion. That’s how we want to entertain our fans.

“I am looking forward to getting to know my team and the rest of the club and I am excited to become a part of the Mainz family.”

Beierlorzer’s first match in charge will be away to Hoffenheim – the team he faced in his final game with Cologne – on Sunday.

 

 

F1 Raceweek: Vettel and Leclerc – when team-mates collide

Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc collided in Brazil but they are far from the first team-mates to come together in Formula One.

The margins for error in Formula One are so small that crashes are an inevitability.

But the attention on collisions is exacerbated tenfold when they occur between team-mates, as was the case at the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend between Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc.

Fighting it out for fourth place at Interlagos, the pair came together on lap 66 with each driver seeing their respective races ended as a result.

It was an incident that earned the ire of Ferrari team boss Mattia Binotto, who said: “Free to fight doesn’t mean to do silly actions – especially between the two team-mates, between the two Ferraris.

“It was simply a silly action.”

But it was certainly not the first time team-mates have collided on track, and it is probably safe to say will not be the last. We have taken a look at some of the most memorable incidents here:

ALAIN PROST AND AYRTON SENNA, JAPAN, 1989

Arguably the most famous of all team-mate collisions took place at the 1989 Japanese Grand Prix when legendary duo Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna were battling for the title. Trailing Prost in the standings, Senna attempted a daring move up the inside of his McLaren team-mate. Prost held his line and the two collided. Senna managed to get going again but, despite crossing the line first, was later disqualified for cutting a chicane meaning Prost became world champion.

MIKA HAKKINEN AND DAVID COULTHARD, AUSTRIA, 1999

Some 10 years later and again it was McLaren under the microscope. With Ferrari great Michael Schumacher having broken his leg in a huge crash at Silverstone, Mika Hakkinen sought about building a lead in the drivers’ standings. Leading through the first corner from pole of the Austrian Grand Prix, the Finn’s chances of victory were severely dented when David Coulthard clipped his team-mate with a limp attempt to pass. Hakkinen recovered valiantly to third, but Coulthard finished second behind Eddie Irvine.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL AND MARK WEBBER, TURKEY, 2010

Vettel’s incident with Leclerc was not a new experience for the German. Nine years ago in Turkey, Mark Webber was aiming for a third straight win but, while in fuel-saving mode, Vettel drew in his Red Bull team-mate only to veer into the Australian following a misjudgement and seeing his race end in a spin.

LEWIS HAMILTON AND NICO ROSBERG, SPAIN, 2016

From karting buddies growing up to fierce title rivals at Mercedes, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg engaged in a thrilling tussle during their time as team-mates at the German constructor. A couple of years prior, the pair had made contact in Belgium but round five in Barcelona in 2016 saw the pair involved in a much bigger prang. With Rosberg in the wrong engine mode, Hamilton attempted to pass through a gap the German went to block and both were wiped out of the race.

MAX VERSTAPPEN AND DANIEL RICCIARDO, AZERBAIJAN, 2018

Another Red Bull collision, another Australian involved but this time it was Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen who were the guilty parties. The two were involved in a thrilling battle for a podium place and had already touched wheels before Ricciardo smashed the back of Verstappen’s car when attempting a pass on lap 40. Both men were reprimanded over the incident.

Gareth Bale: Euphoria of Euro 2016 can inspire Wales against Hungary

Gareth Bale in action for Wales

Wales can use the experience of reaching the semi-finals three years ago to help them qualify for Euro 2020, says Gareth Bale.

Gareth Bale believes the euphoric feeling of Wales’ run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016 will spur Ryan Giggs’ side on against Hungary.

Following a 2-0 victory over Azerbaijan on Saturday, Wales head into their final qualifying match knowing a win will be enough to secure a place at Euro 2020.

Bale scored three goals at the previous finals as Wales – with Chris Coleman in charge – reached the last four in France, going out to eventual champions Portugal.

The Real Madrid forward has claimed Wales can use the experiences gained from three years ago, plus their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, as inspiration heading into Tuesday’s crucial clash in Cardiff.

“I think we can use both of [the experiences] to our advantage,” Bale told a news conference.

“We have got the kind of euphoria of qualifying for our first Euros and doing so well at the competition that we really want to do that again.

“We’ve also got the negatives of knowing how it feels to miss out on qualifying for a tournament like we did with the World Cup.

“We can see how we don’t want to feel after the game. We know prior to this game we can push and push not to feel like that again, because it’s not a feeling you want in the dressing room after the game.

“The experience of qualifying for the Euros was massive and something I’ve never done before and to do it again might be a bit more impressive.

“It’s going to stand in equal stead as last time, but we can’t think about that just yet. We have another important match first and we have to focus on that as a team and a squad.”

Giggs confirmed on Monday that Bale and Aaron Ramsey, who has been hampered by a thigh problem, are both ready to start against Hungary.

“I’m ready. I hadn’t played in four weeks so it was important to get 60 minutes into my legs and get some match sharpness,” Bale added.

“We spoke at the start of the week about trying to get 60 minutes and hopefully being a couple [of goals] up before I came off, so it worked out well, no problems, and I’m ready to go for Tuesday.”

Georginio Wijnaldum vows to walk off and stay off pitch after admitting Moreira abuse ‘really hurt me’

Netherlands international Georginio Wijnaldum

Georginio Wijnaldum wants action at a government level after the latest incident of racist abuse in football left him “really hurt”.

Liverpool and Netherlands star Georginio Wijnaldum believes the only option in the face of racist abuse in a football match would be to walk off the pitch and not return.

Wijnaldum was speaking after Excelsior player Ahmad Mendes Moreira suffered racist chanting in the 3-3 draw with Den Bosch in the Dutch second division on Sunday.

Moreira, supported by team-mates, left the pitch 30 minutes in after being subjected to abuse, with the referee then calling a temporary halt to the match.

The player scored after the game resumed and celebrated by cupping his hands to his ears in front of Den Bosch fans, leading the club’s coach Erik van der Ven to brand Moreira a “pathetic little man” for trying to goad his side’s supporters.

Den Bosch released a statement to apologise to Moreira if he felt “ill-treated”, while the Royal Dutch Football Association (KNVB) promised to investigate to identify the perpetrators.

For Wijnaldum, seeing a match in his homeland marred by racist abuse – as well as Nazi salutes, which he says could be seen in the stands – served only to show how much work must be done by politicians to combat such problems.

The 29-year-old, who also described the level of Den Bosch’s response as “despicable”, says the solution must be for players to leave the pitch following abuse and refuse to resume the match.

“It really hit me on a personal level,” Wijnaldum told reporters on Monday ahead of Netherlands’ final Euro 2020 qualifier against Estonia in Amsterdam.

“I never expected anything like this to happen in the Netherlands. I’m really shocked. It did happen, unfortunately, and the way people have talked about the incident really hurt me.

“It’s a problem in society. As a player, you can’t really change anything about it. But I still think that players should try and support each other. It’s a problem in society and a problem that should be solved by our politicians.

“I hope that there will be severe punishments. This really can’t happen again. It’s not just the racism to the player from Excelsior, but I also saw someone doing the Nazi salute in the stands. When I saw that, I thought, ‘What is wrong with you if you do something like that?’.

“Our ancestors fought for us so we can live freely. If people still perform the Nazi salute, that’s utterly disrespectful. That just can’t happen. We can’t allow that in the Netherlands. That’s what I think. There have to be severe punishments.

“I think the KNVB did well with their statement, saying that they will look into the matter and see what happened. But I think it’s really despicable what Den Bosch did. I might not be allowed to say things like that, but I don’t care anymore.

“I think we need to see very high fines. I heard that they want to install cameras to find out who the culprits are. The punishments need to be so severe that nobody even thinks of doing something like this ever again. We want to play football to enjoy ourselves, we want to entertain our supporters. We don’t want to see things like this happening.”

Netherlands head coach Ronald Koeman interjected to say he would call for his players to walk off the pitch if such an incident were repeated.

“Someone has to be the first,” he said. “We all think about it but, in the end, nobody ever acts on it. Everybody seems to avoid the subject instead of doing something about it.”

Wijnaldum said the match between Den Bosch and Excelsior should not have continued after the abuse, saying players “need to stay away” after walking off.

“You shouldn’t come back on the pitch. What is the point in coming back? What has changed? Everything just stays the same.”

When asked what he would do if it happened in an international match, Wijnaldum replied: “I walk off the pitch. I’m going for sure. I’ll never accept that.

“We talked about it with our guys. Look at our squad. We are one. We don’t look at skin colour. We play for the Dutch team, we play for this shirt, we play for the people. We play so we can entertain the people; we play so we can be at a big tournament such as the Euros again.

“We are so happy about qualifying and then this happens a day later. It’s so surreal because those people that did this will be cheering for us if we perform well at the Euros.”

Koeman says not enough strong action is being taken by national authorities, adding: “We are way too soft in the Netherlands. Everybody always says that we live in such a safe country. I don’t think we do.”

Brendon Todd continues fine return to form with Mayakoba glory

Brendon Todd in action

A year on from nearly quitting the game, Brendon Todd celebrated a second PGA Tour title in the space of two weeks.

Brendon Todd continued his fine return to form by winning on the PGA Tour for the second time in a fortnight at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

Heavy rain meant no play was possible at all on Thursday, causing delays to the schedule before fading light on Sunday forced a Monday finish in Playa del Carmen.

Todd was tied with Vaughn Taylor at 20 under par through 14 holes when play was called to set up a tight finale in Mexico.

A birdie at 15 was quickly followed by a bogey at 16 but a par-par finish was enough for Todd to triumph after a costly dropped shot for Taylor at the 16th.

Adam Long and Carlos Ortiz each signed for rounds of 66 to join Taylor in finishing one shot adrift of Todd, who also secured the Bermuda Championship this month.

It marks a brilliant recovery for Todd, who a year ago was contemplating quitting golf after struggling with swing yips. Prior to this calendar year, he had made just six cuts in 47 starts.

But after regaining his PGA Tour card, Todd has in the space of a month added two wins to the Byron Nelson title he celebrated five years ago.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey ready to start in Wales’ crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Hungary

Gareth Bale celebrates a goal for Wales

Ryan Giggs plans to have Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey in the Wales starting line-up to face Hungary in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey are ready to start for Wales in Tuesday’s crucial Euro 2020 qualifier against Hungary, manager Ryan Giggs has confirmed.

Real Madrid forward Bale made his first appearance in a month in the 2-0 win over Azerbaijan on Saturday, a result that kept alive Wales’ hopes of qualifying automatically for next year’s tournament.

Bale, who has been struggling with a calf injury, was replaced in the second half by Juventus midfielder Ramsey, who has been hampered by recent thigh trouble.

Giggs expects to be able to have both players in the starting line-up for the first time in their qualifying campaign when they face Hungary in Cardiff, a match in which the winners will secure a place at the Euro 2020 finals.

“We’ve got a few players who played 90 minutes for the first time against Azerbaijan, so it is important they get the recovery in over the next few days,” Giggs said on Monday.

“The lads who got minutes needed minutes. It’s a bit of a balancing act, the players I know who can’t play 90 minutes – that will obviously influence the selection.

“Yeah, [Bale and Ramsey] are both ready to start. Gareth and Aaron, with Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu, all players who haven’t had an awful lot of football, got the minutes they needed.

“We were able to get Gareth off and it was important to get Aaron on the pitch. Everyone in the squad is available to start.”

Giggs has challenged his players to capitalise on the good fortunate of Croatia’s win over Slovakia on Saturday.

The World Cup finalists came from a goal down to win 3-1 and book their own place at Euro 2020, while also ensuring Wales and Hungary have their fates in their own hands.

“We had the high of winning the game but when Slovakia go ahead you are fearing the worst, but Croatia are fantastic at home,” Giggs said.

“They showed their quality. We needed favours and we got those favours. Now it is time for us to capitalise.

“It’s in our hands. It’s a great, exciting challenge for us but we need to finish the job – it will be a very, very difficult game.”