France move to the top of Group A with a stunning win over the Netherlands
Switzerland make it seven victories out of seven
Belgium are now within touching distance of Russia 2018
THE DAY REPLAYED – Thursday’s European qualifying matches for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ saw nets bulge continuously all over the continent, with 37 goals registered in just nine scheduled matches.
The largest win of the night came in Liege, where Belgium moved closer to securing an automatic qualifying slot with a 9-0 destruction of Gibraltar. France did not rack up quite as many goals, but their 4-0 triumph over the Netherlands was as ruthless as it was impressive. In Group B, Cristiano Ronaldo recorded a memorable hat-trick, but a rampant Switzerland continue to dominate the pool.
FIFA.com runs the rule over all of the day’s qualifiers.
Results 31 August Group A: Bulgaria 3-2 Sweden, France 4-0 Netherlands, Luxembourg 1-0 Belarus
Group B: Switzerland 3-0 Andorra, Portugal 5-1 Faroe Islands, Hungary 3-1 Latvia
With France’s confidence having been dealt a blow following their 2-1 defeat in Sweden last time out, and the Netherlands looking reinvigorated since the return of Dick Advocaat to the helm, the Group A clash between the two nations in Paris promised to be a tight encounter.
In the end, it was nothing of the sort, as Les Bleus proceeded to dominate the game from start to finish. After breaking the deadlock via a well-worked Antoine Griezmann goal, the home side missed a number of chances, but they finally put the result beyond any doubt halfway through the second half courtesy of a scintillating Thomas Lemar strike.
The Monaco star then helped himself to his second of the night, before his former club team-mate Kylian Mbappe notched an excellent individual effort – his first goal for his country.
Bulgaria’s 3-2 victory over Sweden improved France’s night even further, as Didier Deschamps’ men now move clear at the top of Group A. The result continued the Bulgarians’ fine run at home during this campaign; they have yet to drop points in front of their own fans. Luxembourg, meanwhile, pocketed three points for the first time in the section with a remarkable 1-0 win versus Belarus.
Switzerland continued their all-conquering march at the top of Group B, their 3-0 success over Andorra making it seven out of seven in these qualifiers. Portugal are still in with a shout, however, after a Cristiano Ronaldo hat-trick helped the Lusitanians to see off the plucky challenge posed by the Faroe Islands (5-1). It was the fourth successive qualifying match in which the Real Madrid man has scored at least a brace. Hungary remain a distant third, despite their 3-1 victory over Latvia in Budapest.
Following an astonishingly clinical performance against Gibraltar (9-0), Belgium now need just one more win to guarantee themselves a place in Russia next year. Both of their closest pursuers within the chasing pack slipped up: Greece could only draw at home to Estonia, while Bosnia-Herzegovina suffered a shock 3-2 reverse in Cyprus, despite leading 2-0 at one point.
Player of the day
Fans in the Stade du Sclessin in Liege witnessed a festival of goals on Thursday evening, with one player in particular raising eyebrows. Right-back Thomas Meunier enjoyed a night to remember, scoring a fantastic hat-trick and setting up another three goals. The Paris Saint-Germain defender has, over the past year, developed into a key player for Les Diables Rouges, and with performances like this one, it is easy to see why.
Phil Jones was once tipped by Sir Alex Ferguson to become Manchester United’s best ever player – comments met with a smile and trip to Nando’s by a level-headed defender now determined to make up for lost time.
Still only 25, the centre-back has enjoyed the highs of Premier League glory along with the lows of time on the sidelines due to injury or falling out of favour.
Jones has lost a grip on time since swapping Blackburn for Old Trafford, admitting it feels longer than six years, but the defender is feeling as good as ever.
“It’s weird, I feel like I have still done a lot at United, I still feel like have developed as a player,” he said. “I feel like I’ve grown into myself, if you like, and I’ve seen a lot of faces come and go.
“Some people say in pre-season ‘he might go here, he might be going there’, then you look at all the faces that have gone and you think to yourself ‘I can’t be doing too bad if I am still here at the best club, one of the best clubs in the world?’
“I have won the Premier League, the Europa League, albeit I was on the bench in the final, I have been involved in big games in the Champions League.”
But Jones knows he has yet to fulfil his full potential and, while confident of kicking on, it is unlikely he will ever become fulfil Ferguson’s prediction of perhaps becoming United’s “best ever player”
“At the time you are young and you just read the comments, but it just goes straight over your head, you’re not interested,” the defender said, with a smile.
“Four, five years ago, whenever it happened, you think ‘oh, that’s good’ and you go out to Nando’s with your mates.
“The manager says nice things but I don’t like to sit there and think ‘that’s nice’ because football is a very, very strange game.
“You can be up there one minute and you be down there the next.
“You have just have to – it sounds stupid – take each day as it comes and every day is a different day.”
Ferguson is one of only three managers Jones felt he had the belief of during his career, along with Sam Allardyce, his manager at Blackburn, and current United boss Jose Mourinho.
The 25-year-old has started all three Premier League matches this season under the Portuguese, who believes Jones has “potentially everything I like in a central defender”.
“I have obviously seen them and it’s nice to hear that from the manager, but I am under no illusions,” Jones said.
“It’s a long season ahead and things can change very quickly in football and I need to keep doing what I am doing, not just in the games but in training as well.”
The fact Mourinho’s comments came with the caveat of keeping him “safe from injuries” underlines Jones’ problems in recent years.
A string of issues has restricted the defender to 113 league starts in his six years with United, while he has just 21 caps to his name ahead of England’s World Cup qualifiers against Malta and Slovakia.
“I get that people are going to talk about it,” Jones said of his injuries.
“Obviously it looms over my head the whole thing, but I just concentrate on doing what I do best and that’s playing football.
“When I’m playing football, I’m enjoying it and if you’re happy outside of football then you’re happy on the pitch as well.
“Everything is nice at the moment. I’m in a good place and I just want to keep going.”
Jones will now hope to be protected by the guardian angel inked onto his right arm, with the tattoo featuring, among other things, an image of him as a child playing football and a compass to remind him of his roots.
Such grounding means the defender truly appreciates his time with United – a club he never felt the need to leave, despite being frozen out by Louis van Gaal not so long ago.
“When times are tough, I am not one for just chucking the towel in and saying ‘that’s me, I’m done’,” Jones said. “It was difficult towards the end of the second season under Van Gaal.
“Sometimes your face fits, sometimes it doesn’t – that’s football, that’s in every walk of life, that’s just the way things are.
“I took it with a pinch of salt and made sure that I could get myself in the best possible shape I could.
“I had a good pre-season and I always said to myself that if I can be strong, be mentally strong, I would have a chance under the new manager and thankfully he has given me that.”
OUT: Felix Beiersdorf (Wiener Neustadt, loan), Benjamin Bellot (Brondby IF), Massimo Bruno (RSC Anderlecht, loan), Oliver Burke (West Bromwich Albion) Agyemang Diawusie (Wehen Wiesbaden, loan), Anthony Jung (Brondby, loan), Naby Keita (Liverpool, end of season), Rani Khedira (out of contract), Marius Müller (1. FC Kaiserslautern, loan), Atinc Nukan (Besiktas, loan), Nils Quaschner (Arminia Bielefeld), Davie Selke (Hertha Berlin)
OUT:Sami Allagui (St. Pauli), Alexander Baumjohann (Coritiba), John Anthony Brooks (Wolfsburg), Marius Gersbeck (Osnabrück, loan), Florian Kohls (out of contract), Nils Körber (Preußen Münster, loan), Mike Owusu (out of contract)
OUT: Amir Falahen (out of contract), Jonas Föhrenbach (Karlsruher, loan), Vincenzo Grifo (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Sebastian Kerk (1. FC Nürnberg), Havard Nielsen (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Maximilian Philipp (Borussia Dortmund), Fabian Schleusener (Karlsruher, loan), Marc Torrejon (Union Berlin)
OUT: Michael Hector (loan return to Chelsea), Heinz Lindner (Grasshoppers Zurich), Bastian Oczipka (Schalke), Ante Rebic (loan return to Fiorentina), Haris Seferovic (Benfica), Shani Tarashaj (loan return to Everton), Jesus Vallejo (loan return to Real Madrid), Guillermo Varela (loan return to Manchester United), Furkan Zorba (VfL Osnabrück)
IN:Sven Bender (Borussia Dortmund), Dominik Kohr (Augsburg), Andre Ramalho (loan return from Mainz), Panagiotis Restos (Olympiakos)
OUT: Pierre Bengtsson (was on loan at Bastia, now at Copenhagen), Jhon Cordoba (Cologne), Besar Halimi (Brondby, loan), Bojan Krkic (loan, return to Stoke City), Jonas Lössl (Huddersfield Town, loan), Todor Nedelev (Botev Plovdiv) Florian Niederlechner (Freiburg, loan deal made permanent), Devante Parker (St. Pölten, loan), Andre Ramalho (loan, return to Bayer Leverkusen), Aaron Seydel (Holstein Kiel, loan)
OUT:Julian Green (Greuther Fürth, loan) Florian Klein (out of contract), Jan Kliment (Brondby, loan), Mitchell Langerak (Levante), Alexandru Maxim (Mainz), Jerome Onguene (FC Salzburg, loan), Toni Sunjic (Dynamo Moscow), Boris Tashchy (Duisburg), Benjamin Uphoff (Karlsruher), Tobias Werner (Nuremberg, loan), Jean Zimmer (Fortuna Düsseldorf, loan)
OUT: Mevlüt Erdinc (Istanbul Basaksehir), Babacar Gueye (VV St. Truiden, loan), Andre Hoffmann (Fortuna Düsseldorf), Marko Maric (loan return to Hoffenheim), Artur Sobiech (out of contract), Stefan Strandberg (loan return to FK Krasnodar), Marius Wolf (Eintracht Frankfurt, loan)
“We’re really pleased that Jadon Sancho, one of Europe’s brightests young talents, will be a Dortmund player,” said Michael Zorc, BVB sporting director. “We’re convinced that we could help this still-young player to develop his game and – in the medium term – he will become a real addition.”
The attacking midfielder was chosen as player of the tournament as the UEFA Under-17 European Championship in May, contributing at least a goal or an assist every game as England finished runners-up to Spain.
Everton midfielder Ross Barkley changed his mind about moving to Chelsea despite undergoing a medical with the Premier League champions, according to Toffees’ majority shareholder Farhad Moshiri.
Moshiri said Everton had accepted a £35million offer for the England international and were left “surprised” by Barkley’s decision to opt against the move.
The 23-year-old’s snub is the latest blow in a string of transfer window disappointments for Chelsea – who have missed out on a number of summer targets.
Their former striker Romelu Lukaku was heavily linked with a return to Stamford Bridge but instead chose to join rivals Manchester United.
In recent days Chelsea had an offer accepted by Arsenal for midfielder Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who rejected the move in favour of a transfer to Liverpool.
Antonio Conte had also been keen to recruit experienced striker Fernando Llorente from Swansea having worked with the 32-year-old at Juventus but the Spaniard joined Tottenham instead.
Barkley emerged as a late candidate for Conte’s side, who have added Antonio Rudiger, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Alvaro Morata in the window, having been told by Everton boss Ronald Koeman he could leave this summer.
But Moshiri told Sky Sports News the player had a change of heart and will now return to Goodison Park to continue rehabilitation on a hamstring injury.
“After the medical we heard from Paul Martin, Ross Barkley’s agent, that he changed his mind and wanted to reconsider his position during the January window, that is the latest,” he said.
“He is currently injured so I think technically he will be with us because he is under contract for another year. So it is a big surprise, but that is football.”
The apparent u-turn is the latest in a string of transfer frustrations for Conte, although Chelsea did complete a deal for Italy defender Davide Zappacosta.
The 25-year-old arrives from Torino, with the Serie A club announcing the deal on their website moments after the 11pm deadline.
There could be another late arrival with Leicester midfielder Danny Drinkwater reportedly close to signing.
Borussia Dortmund’s 12-year-old sensation Youssoufa Moukoko has been called up to the Germany Under-16 squad after hitting 10 goals in just four games for BVB’s Under-17 side this season.
“[Moukoko] is a win for team,” said Dortmund’s U17 coach Sebastian Geppert of the Cameroon-born prodigy, who has scored four fifths of his age group’s goals so far this season. “He’s done a fantastic job. He provides an incredible goal-threat and is often unstoppable for opposing defenders when going forward.”
Watch:Skip to 2:20 in this video from the DFB below to see Moukoko strut his stuff
Germany’s U16s play Austria on 11 and 13 September, with the squad of 22 players born almost exclusively in 2002 aside from Moukoko. Geppert, though, has no doubt the youngster will succeed.
“In addition this his threat, he is also playing very well team-wise and finds himself in the right place through teamwork.”
Wolfsburg have strengthened their attacking options with the Deadline Day signing of Belgium international Divock Origi on a season-long loan from Liverpool.
The powerful striker, who can also operate from wide, is coming to Wolfsburg and the Bundesliga eager to earn regular game time.
Origi has scored 21 goals in 77 appearances for English Premier League side, as well as collecting 23 caps for the Belgian national team.
The signing of Origi, as support for club captain and last season’s top scorer Mario Gomez, means that Wolfbsurg’s forward line is formidable, particularly considering the early-summer arrival of Landry Dimata.
“We’ve really strengthened our forward line with Divock Origi,” said Wolfsburg sporting director Olaf Rebbe. “Divock has proved his abilities at club and international level and is very experienced for a player of his age. He’s quick, can beat a man and is dangerous. He’ll make us more unpredictable up top.”
The 22-year-old becomes the Wolves’ 10th signing of the summer.
One of the summer’s most intriguing transfer stories has finally drawn to a close after Paris Saint-Germain agreed a one-season loan deal for Kylian Mbappé, luring the 18-year-old striker from Monaco with the option to make his stay permanent next summer. But just how good is Mbappé, who just over a year ago was starring for France at the UEFA European Under-19 Championship? It’s been some rise.
Name: Kylian Mbappé Club: Paris Saint-Germain (on loan from Monaco) Debut: 2 December 2015 v Caen (Ligue 1) Position: forward Nationality: French Date of birth: 20 December 1998 Preferred foot: right Height: 178cm
International: 4 appearances, 0 goals UEFA club competition: 10 appearances, 6 goal Domestic top division: 41 appearances, 16 goals
“My word, he is good. Ooh la la. I met him, and he gave me the impression he has a good head on his shoulders. l really like watching him play. He thinks. Yes, he’s quick, but he’s thinking and that is the sign of a kid who can go a long way in the game.” Thierry Henry, former France striker
“Mbappé is a very good player. He is an 18-year-old talent and he has got the right temperament. He is a great player; he showed it throughout the year.” Zinédine Zidane, Real Madrid coach
“Mbappé is not exactly the same as Thierry Henry, but it’s true he has similar qualities. The talent is similar. After that, does he have the same level of motivation, desire and intelligence that Thierry had? The next two years will tell us that, but the first signs are very promising.” Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
Mbappé speaks to UEFA.com
“He knows his strengths – he knows he is only 18. He has had a great year, but he will come on as he has the determination and the ability to do so.” David Trezeguet, former France striker
“He is mature on and off the field. He is fast and reacts quickly. What he is doing at his age is remarkable … You would never guess he is only 18.” Didier Deschamps, France coach
“He’s more than passionate [about football] – he’s crazy. I work in football and he almost puts me off it because he’s always into it 24/7. He watches everything; he can watch four or five matches in a row.” Wilfried Mbappé, Kylian’s father
Mbappé was born into a sporting family – his father was a coach at his first club, Bondy, his brother played for Rennes and his mother was a top handball player. After Bondy, he went to Paris to join the revered Clairefontaine academy, and moved to Monaco in 2013.
Highlights: Watch stunning Mbappé finish
An obvious star in waiting as he featured in France’s success at the 2016 UEFA European U19 Championship in Germany, he proceeded to be one of the stars of the 2016/17 UEFA Champions League season. As Monaco reached the semi-finals, he became the first player to score in his first four knockout phase games – and ended his maiden campaign in Europe’s top club competition with six in ten appearances.
Playing style …
His former coach at Clairefontaine, Jean-Claude Lafargue, has described him thus: “He’s a wide forward, he can dribble well and cause panic in the final third. He is an explosive player. He doesn’t have the same touch as other players – he can pass the ball very well with both feet. He can pick passes that others won’t necessarily see.” Though not physically imposing, his speed and low centre of gravity make him a real threat with the ball at his feet.
Highlights: ten youngest French scorers
Shades of …
Thierry Henry, another Monaco product who also came through Clairefontaine, is an obvious point of reference: Mbappé became Monaco’s youngest debutant, aged 16 years and 347 days, beating the record set by Henry, who was 17 years and 14 days when he first turned out for the club.
Ludovic Batelli, Mbappé’s coach with France’s U19s, feels the 18-year-old is already in a field of his own, saying: “Kylian does not want to emulate Thierry Henry. Soon, he will make it so no one can compare him to anyone else.”
He says …
“I am not a phenomenon. Messi, Ronaldo and Neymar are phenomena. I’m still far away from them. When I hear people call me that, I smile. I watch those players, I work, I learn from players like Falcao and Bernardo Silva.”
“I have always worked for the chance to play with and against the best players. When you play in the UEFA Champions League, you meet players like that and you learn fast.”
“Coming to training in the morning is a total pleasure. Time has flown by between the U19 EURO and now. It really has been a brilliant campaign.”
“In football, as long as you believe in yourself and your ability, everything is possible. I have always believed in myself, but that was not enough. I knew I had to work hard to achieve my goals. I am not surprised by what has happened to me. I knew I could make it.”
Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho is undergoing a medical at Crystal Palace after they had a £26million bid accepted.
The France defender spent the second half of last season on loan at Selhurst Park having fallen out of favour with manager Jurgen Klopp over a number of disciplinary issues last summer, and a return south was always the player’s preferred option.
Liverpool had been holding out for £30m but after turning down £22m plus £3m in add-ons on Wednesday – Palace’s third offer – the Reds decided to cut their losses on a player whom they have been trying to offload for a year.
Press Association Sport understands earlier in the day Palace made a bid in excess of £20m for Manchester City centre-back Eliaquim Mangala but Sakho was always their number one target this summer, having impressed in his four-month stay last season before a knee injury prematurely ended his campaign.
The FC Dallas duo of midfielder Michael Barrios and forward Max Urruti will remain with the MLS club, at least through the end of this season, and will not be transferred to Argentinian side San Lorenzo, according to FC Dallas owner Dan Hunt.
The two teams have been engaged in talks over the course of the past week, and on Tuesday multiple sources confirmed to ESPN FC that the odds of either player moving to San Lorenzo were “50-50”. With the transfer window in Argentina closing, those negotiations have ceased, allowing Dallas to hold on to both players for at least the remainder of this season.
Hunt divulged that Dallas received an initial offer on Tuesday, which was turned down. San Lorenzo came back with what Hunt called “a much improved offer” of $5 million total for both players. That offer was subsequently rejected as well.
Hunt said the situation was discussed with both players, and that both Urruti and Barrios had expressed a desire “not to abandon their teammates” in the middle of the season.
“It would be a very difficult situation because we first and foremost want to win MLS Cup this year and deliver that championship to our fans,” he said via telephone. “Given the difficulty of the timing plus the actual desire of the club and the desire of the players, this wasn’t the right time.”
The news amounts to a boost for FCD in terms of its on-field fortunes, given that Barrios and Urruti are two of team’s biggest attacking pieces. Urruti — who was acquired prior to the 2016 season in the MLS Re-entry Draft after the Portland Timbers declined the option on his contract — is Dallas’ leading scorer this season with 12 goals and five assists. Barrios has scored just twice, but has 12 assists, a mark that is tied for second in the league behind Victor Vasquez of Toronto FC.
Dallas has also been struggling mightily for results of late, going winless in its last six games. The spell has seen FCD fall into seventh place in the Western Conference, though it has two games in hand on sixth place San Jose. Still, Dallas’ fall is a shocking development for a team predicted by many to be an MLS Cup contender at the start of the season.
Had FCD transferred both players, it would have amounted to a huge blow in terms of its postseason aspirations. It also would have marked the second consecutive year in which an important player or players had left the club in midseason. Last year, winger Fabian Castillo departed amid a contentious transfer to Turkish club Trabzonspor.
Now with Urruti and Barrios both staying in Dallas, the team’s playoff hopes look more promising.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.
“I’m pleased to be a Torino player,” Niang said. “What I had hoped for has come true, and I would like to thank everybody for this.
“I really wanted to come here because I feel everybody’s faith, and this is very important.
“And it’s not a secret that I have an excellent relationship with [his former Milan coach Sinisa] Mihajlovic. I expect to do well in the league and in the Coppa Italia. The objective is to go as high as possible with this shirt.”
Niang played 67 times for Milan, scoring eight goals and spent the second half of last season on loan at Watford, where he scored twice in 16 games.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.
Arsenal are now highly unlikely to complete the signing of Monaco forward Thomas Lemar before the closure of the summer transfer window, Press Association Sport understands.
The 21-year-old France international has been a target for the Gunners for much of the summer, with Liverpool also interested in him.
It is understood Arsenal made a late push to sign Lemar after Manchester City made an improved offer for their forward Alexis Sanchez.
While Gunners manager Arsene Wenger has been insisting for months that Sanchez, whose contract expires at the end of the season, would not be sold, it is believed the Chile forward would have had a chance of a move if Arsenal could have signed a replacement.
Some reports suggest Arsenal offered as much as £92million for Lemar, who joined Monaco from Caen in 2015.
But, with the deadline set for 11pm, it is understood the club are now not expecting to get the deal over the line on time.
That ultimately means Sanchez is likely to stay put, even though it is understood City launched an improved bid earlier on Thursday.
Arsenal had already lost Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain to a Premier League rival earlier in the day as the England international completed a move to Liverpool.
Kieran Gibbs was sold to West Brom on Wednesday while the futures of players such as Lucas Perez, Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Debuchy remain up in the air.
Leicester reportedly made a big-money move for Calum Chambers but Arsenal are adamant the defender will not leave in this window.
USA and Costa Rica vying to solidify automatic qualification spots
Four matchdays remain in the Hexagonal round
The headline going into the seventh matchday of Round 5 of 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying in CONCACAF is that Mexico is on the brink of reaching the tournament for the seventh consecutive time.
Elsewhere, perennial qualifiers Costa Rica and USA will be playing to strengthen their respective positions on the table as both sides look to book a place to Russia 2018 without having to go through an intercontinental play-off.
The match Mexico-Panama, Mexico City Hexagonal leaders Mexico can book their ticket to Russia next year with victory against Panama, provided Honduras fail to win in Trinidad and Tobago. Motivated after missing out on Brazil 2014 in dramatic and heartbreaking circumstances, Panama will walk out at the Estadio Azteca with belief.
Defender Adolfo Machado said as much to the Panamanian press: “Mexicans are living off history, they think they are the last Coca-Cola in the desert. They have to understand that all has changed. Panama has developed a lot. Mexico is a great team, but it isn’t invincible. We’ve scored on them and given them good games in the Azteca and we’re going with the idea of picking up a good result.”
Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio will look to Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, Hirving Lozano and Jesus “Tecatito” Corono to bring their fine European club form – playing for West Ham United, PSV Eindhoven and Porto respectively – as El Tri seek to continue an almost flawless Round 5 campaign. The odds are stacked in their favour. Not only will they be playing in front of their home crowd, but Panama has yet to beat Mexico in a World Cup qualifier.
The other attractions Costa Rica have the chance to build a six-point gap between themselves in second and their opponents when they travel to New Jersey to face USA. La Sele head coach Oscar Ramirez and his side will be facing a different looking Stars and Stripes team to the one they demolished 4-0 in San Jose last November. USA are now led by veteran coach Bruce Arena after Jurgen Klinsmann was sacked mere days after that demoralising defeat.
So far during Arena’s tenure in World Cup qualifying, USA defeated both Honduras and Trinidad and Tobago with ease on home soil, while grinding out two draws away to Panama and Mexico. USA will also have a slight mental edge at Red Bull Arena having beaten Costa Rica in the semi-finals of the recent CONACACAF Gold Cup.
Down in Couva, Trinidad and Tobago and Honduras meet in shaping as a must-win match for both sides if they are to keep their qualification dreams alive. The ‘must-win’ tag can be used more so for head coach Dennis Lawrence’s side as Trinidad and Tobago sit at the bottom of the table and have failed to pick up a single point in their last three qualification matches. The importance of the match will not be lost on Jose Luis Pinto and his side either as their only win of the Hexagonal round came against Trinidad and Tobago last November.
Eighteen-year-old USA midfielder Christian Pulisic burst on to the international scene late last year and has been productive ever since. Pulisic has looked bright in Borussia Dortmund’s first two Bundesliga matches, scoring a goal and providing an assist, and in his last five matches for the Stars and Stripes, he has either scored or assisted in seven of the team’s 11 goals.
What they said “We’ve had a couple of World Cup cycles in which we’ve suffered a lot and this time we can do it in a less fraught way, without as much pressure and that’s something to appreciate.” Andres Guardado, Mexico midfielder
Japan confirm Russia 2018 place with Australia victory
Korea Republic held at home against Iran
Two automatic berths, one play-off place up for grabs
Japan became the second Asian team to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, joining Iran at the global finals after beating Australia 2-0 at home. The Socceroos are, meanwhile, left to battle for Group B’s second qualifying spot against Saudi Arabia, who lost 2-1 in United Arab Emirates on Tuesday.
In Group A, Korea Republic are still fighting for their Russia 2018 place after being held to a goalless draw at home to Iran. Syria, though, stunned Qatar 3-1 to move level on points with Uzbekistan, who lost 1-0 to China PR. It becomes a three-horse race for the section’s remaining automatic ticket, though the Taeguk Warriors are two points clear. Qatar’s Russia 2018 dreams are over, while China maintained their hopes of a play-off finish.
Results Group A: China PR 1-0 Uzbekistan, Korea Republic 0-0 Iran, Syria 3-1 Qatar Group B:United Arab Emirates 2-1 Saudi Arabia, Japan 2-0 Australia, Thailand 1-2 Iraq
The match Japan 2-0 Australia Saitama Stadium 2002, Saitama Goals: 41 Takuma Asano; 83 Yosuke Ideguchi
Japan completed their mission in style, defeating Australia 2-0 at home to book their place at Russia 2018 with a game to spare. Having never defeated the Socceroos in FIFA World Cup qualifying, Samurai Blue broke the jinx with their first victory. With Japan claiming the top spot of Group B, Australia are left battling for the section’s remaining automatic berth with Saudi Arabia, who are leading on goal difference. Ange Postecoglou’s side must now beat Thailand on Tuesday and hope the other result goes their way if they are to secure their ticket to the FIFA World Cup.
In what had been anticipated as a decider, Vahid Halilhodzic surprisingly made several changes to the line-up of their last 1-1 draw with Iraq, notably starting dynamic attackers Takashi Inui and Takuma Asano in preference to the likes of Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki. His tactical changes duly paid off, with the latter breaking the deadlock four minutes from break. The visitors pressed hard after the restart, desperately seeking to equalise. But it was the hosts who doubled the lead, with Yosuke Ideguchi striking late to seal the win and their sixth successive FIFA World Cup qualification.
Saudi Arabia’s hopeful campaign was dealt a heavy blow after they threw away a 1-0 lead to lose to hosts United Arab Emirates on Tuesday. Nawaf Al Abed put the visitors ahead with a spot-kick but Ali Mabkhout drew the hosts levelas the two sides finished the first half locked at 1-1. Ahmed Khalil then sealed the victory on the hour-mark with a spectacular long-range strike to keep their slim Russia 2018 hopes alive. The Saudis now face an all-but must-win scenarios when they entertain Japan in the closing game five days later.
In Group A, Korea Republic were held to a goalless draw by Iran in Seoul. Both sides carved out a couple of chances but it was the hosts that looked more likely to break the deadlock with Jang Hyunsoo heading just wide of the post. Now two points clear of Uzbekistan and Syria, the Taeguk Warriors remain in the driving seat in the three-horse race for the remaining qualifying slot, with a victory in Uzbekistan enough to seal their passage through regardless of other results.
Omar Kharbin struck in each half as Syria maintained their hopes of an automatic qualifying place to the next FIFA World Cup with a 3-1 defeat of Qatar. The 23-year-old striker opened the scoring on seven minutes after getting onto the end of Feras Al Khatib’s smart through-ball and despite seeing his opener cancelled out by Ali Assadalia, the Al Hilal frontman restored their lead with a second-half strike, before Mahmoud Al Mawas sealed the deal with a stoppage-time effort.
Gao Lin scored the only goal as China PR defeated Uzbekistan at home to keep their slim World Cup hopes alive. Marcello Lippi’s side dominated the first half with 12 shots to one, only to fail to break the deadlock. Having weathered the hosts’ storm, though, the visitors hit back hard after the restart and looked the more dangerous side going forward. China PR were awarded a penalty when Feng Xiaoting was tripped in the area and from the consequent spot-kick, Gao Lin kept his cool to seal his side’s second victory under the Italian coach.
The surprise package in Asian qualifying, Syria have defied all odds to maintain their hopes of qualifying for a maiden World Cup. But Syrian fans are aware that their team would hardly have made it this far had it not been for their striking prodigy Omar Kharbin. In a sense, the emerging star has established his talismanic place, having scored ten times as his side continued their amazing run.
Did you know? Japan are among Asia’s most successful team in FIFA World Cup qualifying and Russia 2018 marks their sixth appearance at the global extravaganza. The Samurai Blue are second only to Korea Republic, who have represented Asia for a record nine times at the FIFA World Cup.
What they said
“I know that losing is a part of sport, but for me this is the most disappointing moment of the past two years, from the beginning until now. In one game, we threw almost everything away with an unnecessary loss in Australia, and now we have another unnecessary loss,” Saudi Arabia head coach Bert van Marwijk.
Up next (Round Three, Matchday 10) Group A – 5 September Iran-Syria
Manager Arsene Wenger had insisted all summer that Sanchez would not be sold, but that stance had softened after Sunday’s 4-0 loss to Liverpool, when the player’s mindset and performance were widely questioned.
The only deals Arsenal expect to complete before the window shuts are to send Lucas Perez back on loan to his former club Deportivo La Coruna, while Joel Campbell is also expected to go on loan again despite still in recovery from a knee injury.
It makes for a frustrating finish to a transfer window that started in a very promising fashion for Arsenal with the signings of Sead Kolasinac and Alexandre Lacazette. The club insist they’re happy to keep Sanchez but there have been fears that his attitude could have a negative impact on the squad after he made it clear he wants to leave.
Sanchez can now see out final year of his contract and leave on a free transfer next summer, if the Gunners do not accept a cut-price deal in January.
Mattias is ESPN FC’s Arsenal correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @MattiasKaren.
Borussia Dortmund have signed highly-rated England youth international Jadon Sancho from Manchester City, the Bundesliga club have announced.
Press Association Sport understands the German club have paid around £8million for the 17-year-old in a deal which also guarantees City will receive a substantial sell-on clause should he move on again.
The winger has been tempted to move by the prospect of first-team football in Germany and will wear the number seven shirt recently vacated by Ousmane Dembele at Dortmund.
Sancho was one of the star players during the recent Under-17 European Championship, in which England finished runners-up, and had attracted interest from Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham.
City had hoped to persuade their Academy product to stay but he turned down the offer of a new contract.
Dortmund sports director Michael Zorc told the club’s website, www.bvb.de: “We are very pleased that Jadon Sancho, who is currently one of the greatest talents in European football, will definitely play at BVB.
“We are convinced that we can help this very young player continue to develop his game and become a real asset for our team.”
Liverpool have announced striker Divock Origi has joined Bundesliga side Wolfsburg on loan until the end of the season.
Belgium international Origi, 22, has had little game time at Anfield this season, making one substitute’s appearance for Jurgen Klopp’s side.
“Liverpool FC can confirm that Divock Origi has completed a season-long loan move to Wolfsburg,” the Merseyside club confirmed on their official website.
Liverpool paid French side Lille Â£10million to sign Origi in July 2014 when he was still a teenager and in his three-year spell at Anfield he has scored 21 goals in 77 appearances.
But he has dropped down the pecking order in Klopp’s squad following the arrival of Dominic Solanke earlier this summer and was not included in the match-day squad for last weekend’s 4-0 defeat of Arsenal.
Marseille, Bayer Leverkusen and Werder Bremen had also been reported to have shown an interest in Origi, who can expect regular game time under Wolfsburg boss Andries Jonker.
Lazio have announced the signing of Nani on a season-long loan from Valencia, with the Serie A club obtaining the option to make the move permanent in 2018.
Portugal international Nani arrived at Rome’s Ciampino airport on Thursday morning and passed his medical examination at the Paideia Clinic.
The former Manchester United winger joined the Biancocelesti ahead of the transfer deadline after just one season with Valencia, for whom he made 25 appearances and scored five goals.
Both the Serie A and La Liga club confirmed the deal, with Valencia writing in a statement on their website: “Valencia CF have reached an agreement this Thursday with SS Lazio for the loan of Luis Carlos Almeida da Cunha ‘Nani’ for one season. The Italian club will have the option to buy the Portuguese footballer at the end of the loan period.”
Valencia were keen to offload Nani because of the 30-year-old’s high wages of €2 million net per season. He was under contract there for two more seasons, and managed 25 league appearances last season, 22 as a starter, scoring five goals and setting up seven more, despite spending two months sidelined with a thigh injury.
Nani’s last goal for Manchester United came in September 2012, after which he made only a handful of appearances for the Red Devils before moving to Portugal on loan in 2014 and to Turkey on a permanent deal in 2015.
Nani was reluctant to leave Valencia this summer but the Euro 2016 winner has now agreed to join the Rome-based club in what will be his first experience in Italy and his fifth league following stints in Portugal, England, Turkey and Spain.
He was not included in Portugal’s squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Faroe Islands and Hungary.
Burnley have announced the signing of striker Nahki Wells from Huddersfield for an undisclosed fee.
Bermuda international Wells, currently recovering from minor ankle surgery, has put pen to paper on a three-year deal at Turf Moor.
“Burnley Football Club is delighted to confirm the signing of Nahki Wells on a three-year contract,” the Clarets said on their official website.
“The Clarets completed the deadline-day signing of the striker, 27, from Premier League rivals Huddersfield Town for an undisclosed fee.”
Wells had been linked with a move to Burnley since Huddersfield head coach David Wagner confirmed earlier this month that the club were open to offers for the former Bradford striker.
Wagner has drafted in fellow strikers Steve Mounie and Laurent Depoitre since the Terriers’ play-off final triumph at Wembley in May, while Elias Kachunga’s loan move from Ingolstadt was made permanent.
But Wells, who scored 48 goals in 152 appearances during his three-and-a-half-year spell at Huddersfield, believes good times lie ahead at Turf Moor.
“I have no doubt this is an ideal move for me,” Wells said.
“I have played at every level besides the Premier League. I achieved that by getting promoted (with Huddersfield) and it wasn’t something that was going to change. I have always wanted to play there.
“I’ve documented that way back, when I first broke into the game.
“Now the opportunity is here and I’m very thankful to the football club to give it to me. I feel I can go on and do great things.”
Wells had minor surgery to resolve an ankle problem earlier this month and has not featured this season for Huddersfield in the Premier League.
He had slipped down the pecking order at the John Smith’s Stadium when the Terriers paid club record fees, first for Depoitre to Porto and then Mounie to Montpellier in June and July respectively.
Wagner told Huddersfield’s offical website: “Nahki is a great character and has been a very important player for Huddersfield Town for a long time, but now this move works for everyone.
“He is a very good player, but at this moment in time we have a number of high quality players and options in our offensive line.
“Everyone here at Huddersfield Town would like to thank Nahki for what he has done for the club and wishes him all the best for the future.”
Burnley recently sold striker Andre Gray to Watford for a reported fee of Â£18.5million, but boss Sean Dyche had already boosted the club’s fire power by drafting in Jonathan Walters and Chris Wood, a club record Â£15m signing from Leeds.
Wells, who started out in the UK at Carlisle, joined Huddersfield from Bradford for a then-club record fee of Â£1.5m in January 2014.
Vahid Halilhodzic’s side join Iran, Brazil and hosts Russia in qualifying
Australia level on points with Saudi Arabia in second
Japan have qualified for the 2018 FIFA World Cup™, joining Iran, Brazil and hosts Russia in taking their place at the global finals.
They did so with a hard-fought 2-0 win over Australia in a high-stakes encounter at the Saitama Stadium. Both sides had gone into the match knowing that the victors would be guaranteed a spot in Russia and it was the hosts who seized the initiative just before half-time when Takuma Asano sprung the Australian offside trap to volley home from close range.
The Socceroos pushed for an equaliser in the second half but created precious few opportunities and saw their hopes evaporate with eight minutes remaining.
That was when Yosuke Ideguchi scored a goal worthy of winning any match, charging inside from the left flank and curling an unstoppable right-foot shot into the top corner from 25 yards.
The strike sealed Japan’s place at Russia 2018, maintaining their record of having qualified for every World Cup since 1998.
Australia, meanwhile, must hope to beat Thailand in their final match and pip Saudi Arabia – who are also on 16 points, and host the Samurai Blue in their concluding encounter – to second place. Should they finish third, Ange Postecoglou’s side will face a play-off against a team from Group A, with the winner progressing to an intercontinental play-off against an opponent from the CONCACAF region.