England continue unbeaten Euro 2024 qualifying run with victory over Malta

By Sports Desk November 17, 2023

England continued their unbeaten run in European Championship qualification with a 2-0 win over Malta.

The Three Lions opened the scoring in the eighth minute when Enrico Pepe put through his own goal.

Many supporters inside Wembley Stadium would have imagined a few more goals but they were made to wait till the 75th minute before they saw another when Harry Kane netted from close range to seal victory.

Elsewhere in Group C, Italy boosted their chances of making Euro 2024 with a 5-2 win over North Macedonia.

Matteo Darmian opened the scoring for the Italians before Federico Chiesa gave them a healthy advantage thanks to his brace before the interval.

But, Italy were made to sweat in the second half when Jani Atanasov scored twice to reduce the deficit to just one but Giacomo Raspadori’s strike nine minutes from time and Stephan El Shaarawy’s late fifth wrapped up the win.

In Group E, Albania qualified despite being held to a 1-1 draw by Moldova.

Albania hit the front in the 25th minute when Sokol Cikalleshi slotted home a penalty and their celebrations were put on ice when Vladislav Baboglo equalised for the home side, but the scores stayed level to send Albania through.

Czech Republic held onto the second qualifying spot as they claimed a 1-1 draw with Poland in Warsaw.

Poland looked like they would leapfrog their opponents into second when Jakub Piotrowski gave them a 1-0 lead but West Ham’s Tomas Soucek proved to be the hero – four minutes after the break – when he fired the ball home from close range to edge them further to qualification and ended Poland’s hopes.

In Group H, Denmark qualified for the group stages following a 2-1 victory over Slovenia.

Joakim Maehle put Denmark in front but Erik Janza’s strike four minutes later sent the teams level into the break.

The all important winner was scored by Thomas Delaney, who poked home from close range to send the Danes through.

Meanwhile, Kazakhstan kept their hopes of qualifying alive thanks to a 3-1 home victory over San Marino.

The hosts were expected to gain all three points and were on their way when Islam Chesnokov claimed a brace, scoring either side of the break.

For just the second time in the qualifying phase, San Marino got on the scoresheet when Simone Franciosi nodded home from close range but Kazakhstan restored their two-goal advantage thanks to Abat Aimbetov’s late penalty.

Northern Ireland were thrashed 4-0 at the hands of Finland and slumped to their seventh defeat in qualifying.

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  • Almighty clash: Windies target England scalp in Super 8s with unbeaten run on the line Almighty clash: Windies target England scalp in Super 8s with unbeaten run on the line

    Having downed England 3-2 in their T20I series last year, West Indies are hoping to replicate those winning performances on an even bigger stage, as the two familiar foes square off in Super Eight of the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, in St Lucia, on Wednesday night.

    With both West Indies and England being two-time champions, the anticipation is high ahead of what should be another intriguing clash in which familiarity will bring success for one or the other.

    However, West Indies captain Rovman Powell is optimistic that his team will come out tops and set the tone for the remainder of their Super Eight fixtures, while pushing England, the reigning champions, on the back foot.

    Both teams have met 29 times in the game’s shortest format, with West Indies holding a 17-12 advantage, one which they are intent on extending, especially on the back of their rich vein of form. Still, while the Caribbean side enters the business end of the tournament unbeaten and England just squeezed through by virtue of a better net run rate than Scotland, Powell knows better that to take the opposition lightly.

    “They are the defending champions and they are a very good team. So, it’s for us now to just sit and find some plans and see how those plans can work against them,” Powell said in a pre-match press conference.

    West Indies celebrate after topping England in their five-match T20I series last year.

    “We play them [England] actually every year, so they know a lot about us, we know a lot about them. It’s just that when you’re playing the game on the day, whoever gets on top has to stay on top for as long as possible,” he added.

    With the venue –named in honour of their current coach Darren Sammy, who captained West Indies to World Cup triumph in 2012 and 2016 –being to their liking, Powell pointed out that they will once again be aiming to capitalise on the conditions in Saint Lucia. West Indies rewrote the record books a few times in their first game of the tournament at the venue on Monday, as they hammered Afghanistan by 104 runs.

    West Indies have won six of 10 T20Is played at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, including five of the last six. But, Powell is well aware that England also have a liking to the venue, as they have never lost any of their previous three T20Is at the ground, including five years ago when they beat West Indies by four wickets.

    “We always knew that St Lucia was going to be one of the better pitches to play matches on in the Caribbean because of our experience during CPL (Caribbean Premier League) and all the years of playing here,” Powell noted.

    Obed McCoy (left) and Nicholas Pooran (back turned) starred for West Indies against Afghanistan.

    “So, it’s good that we’re starting here, and we played one game on it (against Afghanistan) before the start of the Super Eights. We’re kind of a little bit accustomed to the boundaries and accustomed to the wicket. Hopefully, it would suit us a little bit more than the Englishmen,” he said.

    On that note, Powell welcomed the headache that comes with selecting the most formidable 11, as pacer Obed McCoy replaced Romario Shepherd and did well, bagging 3-14 against Afghanistan, while Shai Hope, wo replaced Roston Chase in the middle order, also contributed handily to the victory.

    Shepherd, who returned home for personal reasons ahead of the Afghanistan contest, is expected to rejoin the team for this Super Eight opener.

    “It’s always good and encouraging when you give guys an opportunity and they take the opportunity because it makes for good competition within the squad. It’s for us as a selection panel – myself, the coach and the chairman – to actually sit down and try to find the best combination. It’s good that guys are putting themselves up and making it a little bit difficult to pick the team,” the Jamaican reasoned.

    “I think a big part of my captaincy is giving guys opportunities and supporting them. Johnson Charles didn’t have particularly a good start to the World Cup but we always knew when he comes home, he’s going to feel at home, he’s going to feel his St Lucians behind him,” Powell shared.

  • 'Anyone would have him!' – Casillas excited to see Mbappe at Real Madrid 'Anyone would have him!' – Casillas excited to see Mbappe at Real Madrid

    Former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas believes the European champions have brought in someone special with the signing of Kylian Mbappe.

    France star Mbappe announced he was leaving Paris Saint-Germain in May before making the move to Madrid earlier this month, ending a years-long transfer saga involving the two teams and the striker.

    The 25-year-old has signed a five-year contract with the winners of LaLiga, who he will join as a free agent in July after his contract with PSG expires, with Brazil sensation Endrick also set to arrive in the Spanish capital.

    With Mbappe joining a side containing a wealth of talent already, which recently captured the Champions League, Casillas is impressed by the squad that Madrid have put together.

    "Mbappe is a very good player," Casillas said. "Everyone wants to have him; anyone would have him in their respective team.

    "Real Madrid have a brilliant president and brilliant people around them. Forming a team like this is something impressive.

    "You can learn a little from the past and in that sense give some continuity to the team as a great club with great players.

    "Real Madrid has them. We will see how they continue to mesh and how they can continue giving joy to the fans."

    Mbappe was tipped to be one of the most influential players at Euro 2024, but his tournament looked in danger of ending early when he suffered a broken nose in France’s opening game against Austria.

    "With Mbappe out, France may suffer a little," two-time Euros champion Casillas added, with Mbappe's status for France's next matches uncertain.

    "But France have a team with very good players and there has been a bit of a revolution by Didier Deschamps.

    "So France can certainly still be a contender and get to the final of the Euros, but we now must see if France can play as well without him."

    Spain are the only team to win back-to-back editions of the European Championships, with Casillas captaining the side in both 2008 and 2012, while also leading them to World Cup glory in 2010.

    This year, Spain have a more youthful look to the squad, with Lamine Yamal becoming the youngest-ever player to appear at the Euros at 16 years and 338 days old.

    The teenager got an assist in Spain’s 3-0 win over Croatia in their first match of the tournament, and Casillas is pleased to see Luis de la Fuente giving young players a chance on the big stage.

    He said: "It is good to see that young players continue to emerge in football in Spain and are being considered stars of the future. It is good for the entire team.

    "Only [Yamal] can prove if he will be a great player - solely and exclusively, him, and of course, the trust and effort that goes in.

    "Let's see, with the confidence and maturity he has, plus the other team-mates who will support him, if he can become a very good player for Spain.

    "We know that the strength of the team comes from the depth and we need to continue having these players emerge."
     

    Iker Casillas is a brand ambassador for Hisense's UEFA EURO 2024 campaign BEYOND GLORY which celebrates the relentless pursuit of excellence shared by professional footballers aiming for EURO honours and Hisense’s commitment to pushing boundaries in the home appliance industry.

  • Spalletti: Italy will not make 'mistake' of underestimating Spain Spalletti: Italy will not make 'mistake' of underestimating Spain

    Luciano Spalletti says Italy will be true to their identity but will not make the "huge mistake" of underestimating Spain in their heavyweight Group B clash.

    Italy opened Euro 2024 with a 2-1 win over Albania on Saturday, coming from behind after conceding the fastest goal ever scored in the tournament's history after 23 seconds.

    Spain, meanwhile, cruised to a 3-0 victory over Croatia, leaving both sides joint-top of the group going into their meeting in Gelsenkirchen on Thursday.

    The winner of the tie will take a big step towards qualifying top of the group, earning the theoretically easier pathway through the knockout stages.

    Asked how Italy were planning to deal with the threat Spain posed, Spalletti instead chose to praise their opponents for their style of play.

    "We have the utmost respect for Spain's history and prestige and the quality of this current crop of players," the head coach said. "But we mustn't think that you're better than you actually are. That would be a huge mistake.

    "We are dressed in Giorgio Armani and Giorgio Armani is world-famous. So, we go there with the same suit, try and be true to our identity and play the same way.

    "But, of course, we need to show the same desire as our opposition to test ourselves against one of the best footballing philosophies in world football.

    "Once we are off the pitch, we need to make sure we have no regrets. We need to try and play our own game in our best clothes, but we are willing to scuff up our suit if required."

    Spalletti was able to use Nicolo Barella in their opening game, with the midfielder starting and scoring after emerging as a major doubt through injury in the build-up to the tournament.

    The 65-year-old was keeping his cards close to his chest about his team selection for Thursday's game.

    "I've not had any news on who's starting for Spain," Spalletti added.

    "It is one of the most important matches of my career. I've already been through some important games, but this is certainly one of those that's right up there.

    "We all have a story to tell. And when the players get to my age, they will know that they need to have stories to tell, and this is one of those matches which could give them a tale to tell in the future."

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