Cristiano Ronaldo will not be stripped of the Portugal captaincy after his "moment of great frustration" in the closing stages of Saturday's controversial draw with Serbia, head coach Fernando Santos has insisted.

Ronaldo was convinced his last-gasp effort crossed the line, but the officials disagreed as Serbia rallied from two goals down to secure a 2-2 draw in World Cup qualifying.

Stefan Mitrovic made back-to-back goal-line clearances to thwart Portugal in stoppage time, though Ronaldo was adamant his effort crossed the line in Belgrade, where there was no VAR in place to review the decision.

Ronaldo was booked for his protestations before he angrily threw his captain's armband on the floor and walked off the field with just seconds remaining.

Santos revealed after the game that "embarrassed" referee Danny Makkelie had apologised upon reviewing footage of the incident. 

While Santos accepts Ronaldo should not have behaved the way he did, the Portugal boss has no intention of taking the captain's armband away from his talisman ahead of Tuesday's Group A clash with Luxembourg. 

"He will keep the armband," Santos told a media conference. "If he had offended the coach, his colleagues or the federation, then yes, we would have to think. Nothing like that happened. 

"What happened was a moment of great frustration that could have happened to me. Frustration of someone who always wants to win, who gives everything for the national team. It happened to him, it could have been someone else. 

"He was the first to recognise that he should not have done it. He will be captain for sure."

Midfielder Ruben Neves spoke alongside Santos on Monday and hailed Ronaldo as an "exemplary captain". 

"He did not apologise and he does not have to," the Wolves man said. "He is an exemplary captain for everyone. 

"We all felt the frustration he felt at that moment; it was a difficult moment for everyone. We know Ronaldo very well and we know what he can give us every day."

Portugal are level with Serbia on four points atop Group A, one point ahead of Luxembourg after their stunning win over the Republic of Ireland.

Wales captain Gareth Bale would support a boycott of social media sites unless greater action is taken to combat online abuse.

International team-mates Ben Cabango and Rabbi Matondo were victims of racism following the 1-0 friendly win over Mexico last Saturday.

The Football Association of Wales (FAW) said it was "disgusted" by the abuse and urged social media platforms and regulators to take "stronger, more effective and urgent action against this despicable behaviour".

Just two days earlier, former Arsenal and Barcelona star Thierry Henry announced he would be disabling his social media accounts until companies took greater accountability for discriminatory posts.

Speaking ahead of Wales' World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic on Tuesday, Bale agreed that more must be done to clamp down on such behaviour online.

"Something needs to happen," he said. "I think if everyone came together and decided to boycott social media, to make a statement [I would].

"If everybody did it at once, not just one or two people, and if we did a campaign with a lot of big influential people in sport and other forms of life came off social media to make a statement, then yeah, I think it could help.

"If that was the case, I would be all for that.

"I've had a lot of bad things said to me on social media, but I'm sure if they [Cabango and Matondo] wanted to come to me for advice they know where they am.

"We've had a brief chat, I haven't gone into too much details. They've spoken with representatives of the FAW and we know obviously it's in the hands of the police and an ongoing investigation.

"From my point of view, I try to stay off it because there's so many toxic people trying to say negative things and put you down.

"It's nice to be able to share what we do and how we do things, pictures of training and what we're enjoying doing.

"But looking at those comments sometimes it's best to stay away from it, share what you want to share and don't read too much into the comments because there's some horrible people out there."

Gareth Bale is focused on a strong finish to the season, including Wales' Euro 2020 campaign, before contemplating what happens next in his career.

Having become a peripheral figure at Real Madrid, Bale returned to Tottenham for the 2020-21 campaign in a loan move that appeared to be an ideal solution for all parties.

However, the 31-year-old arrived with a knee injury that required rehabilitation, leading to a sedate start to his second spell with Spurs. After waiting until October 18 to feature for the first team, he has completed 90 minutes just once – against Wycombe Wanderers in an FA Cup tie.

Yet there were signs of a return to form prior to the international break, including scoring twice and providing an assist in a resounding 4-0 win over Burnley.

Bale was also on target twice in a Premier League triumph over Crystal Palace, lifting his goal tally into double figures in all competitions.

His immediate focus is on Wales' World Cup qualifying campaign – having lost their Group E opener to Belgium, they host the Czech Republic on Tuesday – while there is no urgency on his part to work out a "solution" to his situation at club level.

"For me, first and foremost, I still have this season, still have plenty of games to go until the Euros," Bale told the media on Monday.

"Going into next season, legally my contract says I have to go back to Real Madrid, which is what I stated. I don't think that was being disrespectful to anybody.

"Real Madrid are my parent club and, as far as I agreed, I'm on loan at Tottenham until the end of the season. That is the plan so far; the reason I left was because I wanted to play games and get match fit, to enjoy my football.

"Obviously, come the summer I will go back to Real Madrid and we will go from there. I think the plan is to go back, whether then I sit down with my agent and decide something, we will do in the summer."

He added: "I want to be playing, but in football it's not just about what you want – it's also about the other side. I'm concentrating on this season – obviously we have a big game tomorrow – a big end of the season with Tottenham, then the Euros in the summer.

"For me, at the moment, I don't need to worry about anything else than this season.

"Regarding next season, after the Euros and my summer holiday, we will sit down and go through something then. Hopefully, we will come up with a solution."

Bale is aiming to finish strongly with Spurs, who have lifted themselves back into the running for a top-four finish in the league. There is also the possibility of securing silverware, with Jose Mourinho's side taking on Manchester City in the EFL Cup final on April 25.

Asked to assess his season so far, the forward replied: "It's been okay. It got off to a slow start as I came into Tottenham with a knee injury. Not having played football continuously for a year and a half, it took a little time to get going.

"The past couple of months I've felt stronger and stronger – I've felt like my form has been there, my speed has been there, I've scored some goals.

"I wish it could have started a lot quicker, but also I'm wise enough to know that it does take a bit of time to get your rhythm back. Now that I'm playing, I feel good and hopefully it can continue for the rest of the season, then into the Euros."

Bale played 84 minutes of last week's 3-1 defeat to Belgium, while he made a late appearance off the bench in the 1-0 friendly win over Mexico on Saturday.

Frank de Boer is demanding a high-scoring victory when the Netherlands face Gibraltar in World Cup qualifying on Tuesday.

Having started their campaign with a 4-2 defeat to Turkey, the Oranje responded with a 2-0 win over Latvia on Saturday courtesy of goals from Steven Berghuis and Luuk de Jong.

Head coach De Boer was disappointed his side did not win by a greater margin, though, given they had 76.5 per cent of the possession and 36 shots, with Latvia goalkeeper Roberts Ozols making eight saves.

With Gibraltar having conceded seven goals in their opening two qualifying games against Norway and Montenegro, De Boer wants a more clinical performance from his players and insists loading his starting line-up with forwards is not necessarily the correct approach.

"More players up front doesn't necessarily make the job easier," he said on Monday. "The spaces might be even more tight that way.

"We want to try to bait the opponents to leave their defensive positions, so we can profit from the open spaces through quick combinations. I don't believe that more attackers equals more opportunities.

"Look, a 2-0 victory against Latvia isn't good, especially if you look at the way we played. We should have scored at least seven times, looking at the chances we had. The same goes against Gibraltar: if you create that many chances, you need to score that many times.

"It all depends on how sharp we are. Norway have beaten them 3-0; Gibraltar lost their most recent away match 4-1.

"We need to make sure the tempo stays high. We can't let them breathe. We need to score at least five times, but preferably more."

Barcelona midfielder Frenkie de Jong believes a resounding win could help to boost morale within the Netherlands squad as they look to build on a run of three wins in their previous four matches.

"It's always fun to be playing for your country," he said. "In these games, you can have fun too: if all goes well, you score a lot, you can make some nice combinations.

"I think it could give us a good feeling."

Robert Lewandowski has returned to Bayern Munich to receive treatment on a knee injury, Poland have confirmed.

The striker sustained damage to the collateral ligament of his right knee during the 3-0 World Cup qualifying win over Andorra, in which he scored twice.

Poland issued a statement on Monday to confirm Lewandowski will miss their match with England on Wednesday in order to avoid the risk of aggravating the injury.

The 32-year-old will instead return to Germany for further treatment, which is expected to last from five to 10 days.

The news will be of concern to Bayern coach Hansi Flick ahead of a tough run of fixtures for the Bundesliga leaders.

Bayern face RB Leipzig on April 3, four days before the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Paris Saint-Germain.

The German champions then host Union Berlin on April 10 ahead of the return leg away to PSG on April 13.

Lewandowski has scored 42 goals and provided eight assists in 36 appearances in all competitions for Bayern this season.

The former Borussia Dortmund star has at least 10 more direct goal involvements in 2020-21 than any other Bundesliga player.

Italy were far from at their best against Bulgaria on Sunday, but Roberto Mancini did not expect anything different from his side.

Mancini's unbeaten run as Italy boss was extended to 24 games – one shy of Marcello Lippi's longest streak and just six off the all-time record, set by Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s – as goals from Andrea Belotti and Manuel Locatelli sealed a 2-0 win in World Cup qualifying.

The victory took Italy, who beat Northern Ireland in their opening fixture, level on points with Switzerland at the top of Group C.

A much-changed Italy team dominated possession (67.6 per cent), and had 22 attempts, albeit 12 of these were blocked and only six were on target.

Indeed, the tight nature of the game is reflected by the fact that Federico Bernardeschi – who came on as a 76th-minute substitute – registered a game-high three chances, having entered the fray when the match was more of an open contest.

It was 1-0 at that stage, with Belotti's first-half penalty having opened the scoring. Locatelli was then on hand to curl in his first Italy goal – four of the last seven goals scored by the Azzurri have now been netted by Sassuolo players – and put the result beyond all doubt.

While they may have faulted at times in attack, Italy were rock solid in defence, keeping a sixth straight clean sheet on the road, which is their longest run.

In no mood to pick fault with his side, Mancini told RAI Sport: "All games are difficult, especially against teams like Bulgaria who put everyone behind the ball and just wait for the counter-attack.

"Until you find the breakthrough, there are no spaces and it makes life difficult.

"We are at a moment of the season where the players are a little tired. We didn't allow a single chance in the first half, and we only did in the second after we wasted numerous opportunities to extend our lead.

"As I said, there is no such thing as an easy match. The other teams don't give you space and instead just try to neutralise you. Until you get the opening goal, that's at a deadlock.

"I still think we put in a very good performance in the circumstances. We tried after the second goal tonight to score a third, which is what we should've done against Northern Ireland.

"I don’t see other sides winning 7-0 or 8-0 either this week. We know goal difference is important, but the points mean even more and we hope to beat Switzerland."

Germany head coach Joachim Low bemoaned his side's wastefulness in front of goal during their slender 1-0 World Cup qualifying win against Romania on Sunday.

Serge Gnabry scored the only goal of the game in the 16th minute, with the Bayern Munich forward, Leroy Sane and Timo Werner going on to squander opportunities to extend Die Mannschaft's advantage.

That almost came back to haunt Germany in the closing stages as the hosts went close through George Puscas and Nicolae Stanciu. 

Germany – the 2014 world champions – ultimately held on, though, to follow up Thursday's opening Group J win over Iceland with another three points. 

Low was largely pleased with Germany's display, but acknowledged they should have added to Gnabry's early goal.

"Romania were definitely the better team than Iceland in terms of football," he said. "We worked very well against the ball today and won some battles. 

"We could have made the game easier for ourselves if we had made it 2-0. If there's something to complain about, it's the big opportunities.

"The goalkeeper saved very well several times, but we could have been ice cold and more concentrated in front of goal.

"When the opponent has nothing more to lose, they throw everything forward. We had several chances in which we could have finished more cleanly, but we have three points."

Germany made just one substitution before stoppage time – Werner replacing Kai Havertz in the 77th minute – and Low said he stuck with his starting XI for so long as the game was under control. 

"It's important to get used to it," he added. "But I didn't switch because the game was under control for a long time. 

"We were doing well, the midfield did a good job. The opponent had no chances for a long time, so it wasn't absolutely necessary for a long time."

Joshua Kimmich, who struck the crossbar in the first half with a deflected half-volley, agreed with Low's assessment that Germany made life unnecessarily difficult for themselves. 

The Bayern Munich midfielder said: "We could have made it easier for ourselves. We were lucky that Romania didn't equalise in the 90th minute; that would've been karma for us not scoring again.

"We have to score earlier then we will have a quieter evening. I think we largely controlled the game, but still we didn't manage to decide it earlier."

Germany will be looking to make it three wins from three Group J games when they host North Macedonia on Wednesday. 

Ousmane Dembele is proving he is "on the right track" after the Barcelona winger scored in France's 2-0 defeat of Kazakhstan.

After drawing against Ukraine in their opening World Cup qualifier, the reigning world champions moved top of Group D in comfortable fashion on Sunday.

Dembele opened the scoring with a goal laid on by Martial, before Kazakhstan defender Sergiy Maliy put through his own net.

It marked France's seventh straight away win – their best run since January 1990 to October 1991.

Dembele, who has enjoyed a resurgence at Barca this season following several injury-hit campaigns at Camp Nou, was replaced by Kingsley Coman in the 90th minute, having created one chance and had two shots, both of which hit the target.

Martial teed up Dembele's goal – the only key pass played by the Manchester United forward, who had three attempts (two on target) before going off with an apparent injury in the 59th minute.

His replacement was Kylian Mbappe, and the Paris Saint-Germain star went on to have as many attempts as Martial, though one of those was a penalty he saw saved by Alexandr Mokin.

Asked for his thoughts on the displays of Dembele and Martial, Deschamps told a news conference: "They did some interesting things. 

"Ousmane confirmed that he is on the right track. He is capable of repeating efforts and of differing his play. He was rewarded with this goal. 

"Anthony is behind the first goal. It's good for both. From the moment I take them [in the squad] it is to use them. I have other attackers, but compared to the profile of the opponent, it was important to provoke and to dribble [at the opposition]. They did it pretty well."

Deschamps also stressed he has few concerns over France's somewhat laboured performances across their last two fixtures.

"Everyone is free to wait for what they want. The France team is efficient and continues to be," he said. 

"We do a lot of good things. There were no big scores [on Saturday] either. It is not easy for anyone. There is the opponent, the sequence of matches, plus everything that came before. These are not excuses. I told the players to do the job, to win. We won.

"There were nine new players from the match against Ukraine, but they already had experience. I'm not going to take away the credit. The qualifying games are always difficult, the main thing is to reach our goals."

Andrea Belotti was on target and Manuel Locatelli netted his first international goal as Italy continued their perfect start to World Cup qualifying with a 2-0 win over Bulgaria.

Roberto Mancini's men dispatched Northern Ireland 2-0 in their Group C opener on Thursday and joined Switzerland on six points with a routine victory from a rather stale contest in Sofia.

Belotti, who scored on his last Italy appearance in November, put them ahead – his penalty breaking the deadlock in the 43rd minute.

Italy's number nine missed two chances to put the result beyond all doubt but, with Bulgaria hardly offering a threat going the other way, Locatelli's superb finish wrapped up the points late on.

Federico Chiesa snatched at the only opening of a cagey opening half-an-hour, the Juventus winger flashing wide after latching onto Marco Verratti's pass.

Despite failing to register a shot on target, Italy got a chance to go ahead when Belotti was bundled over in the 42nd minute.

Taking the penalty he won, the Torino striker made no mistake, planting a firm finish into the bottom-left corner.

Bulgaria were furious not to be awarded a penalty of their own 11 minutes after the restart, with their appeals for a handball from Stefano Sensi dismissed.

Gianluigi Donnarumma had to make a superb save in the same move, though Birsent Karagaren was subsequently flagged offside.

Belotti twice went close as Italy pressed to settle the contest, hitting the post with a deft lob before lashing over on the rebound.

Yet there was little chance Italy would be left to rue Belotti's profligacy, and any lingering Bulgaria hopes were dashed when Locatelli curled in his maiden Azzurri goal.

Germany made it two wins from two in World Cup qualifying as Serge Gnabry's first-half goal sealed a 1-0 win over Romania on Sunday. 

Joachim Low's side opened their Group J campaign with a 3-0 win at home to Iceland on Thursday and they put in another dominant display at the National Arena to swat aside Mirel Radoi's men.  

Die Mannschaft had 18 shots to the hosts' nine, but they were limited to just a solitary goal, the impressive Gnabry securing maximum points with a close-range finish after 16 minutes. 

The result means Germany are top of Group J on six points, ahead of Armenia on goal difference, and three points clear of Romania and North Macedonia.

6 points from 6 #DieMannschaft #ROUGER pic.twitter.com/6bawjdLQGO

— Germany (@DFB_Team_EN) March 28, 2021

Kai Havertz and Valentin Mihaila exchanged chances in the early stages, before Gnabry put Germany ahead.

Havertz surged into the penalty area and slid an inviting ball across goal, which the Bayern Munich forward easily slotted home from eight yards.

Joshua Kimmich then thundered against the crossbar from distance, with Florin Nita keeping out Gnabry's follow-up effort as Germany ultimately failed to add to their advantage.

Nita pawed away a fierce Leon Goretzka drive shortly after the restart, while the Romania goalkeeper got down well to deny Gnabry a superb solo goal before the hour mark. 

Leroy Sane and Timo Werner missed presentable opportunities inside the final half-hour, while George Puscas tested Manuel Neuer late on as Germany secured another three points on what is shaping up to be a smooth progression to Qatar 2022. 

 

Luis Enrique joked he was on the verge of a heart attack after Spain required a last-gasp Dani Olmo strike to see off Georgia 2-1 in Sunday's World Cup 2022 qualifier.

Spain played out a 1-1 draw with Greece in their opening Group B fixture on Thursday and were on the verge of being held by Georgia at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.

But substitute Olmo fired in a 25-yard winner in the 92nd minute to spare Spain's blushes after Ferran Torres had earlier cancelled out Khvicha Kvaratskhelia's first-half opener.

Luis Enrique celebrated the goal wildly and admitted his side are bereft of confidence, having won just one of their last five games prior to the late victory in Tbilisi.

"I was on the verge of a heart attack," he told TVE. "We have been losing confidence and you could see that in the first half. 

"We conceded from a slight defensive error and knew it would be complicated from that point on. Our intention was to play more passes inside and create more opportunities."

Asked if Spain deserved their victory against a side ranked 83 places below them in the FIFA rankings, Luis Enrique said: "Yes. And if people think it isn't then I do not care.

"If you score in the 90-something minute it is because you have worked hard for the goal. Each win will lift our morale but we cannot afford to relax now."

Luis Enrique made seven changes from the Greece draw, including a first senior cap for Pedro Porro and a full debut for Bryan Gil.

Spain managed just two shots on target in their last match and only slightly improved in that regard against Georgia with three on-target attempts.

And with a home match against Kosovo to come on Wednesday in the last of this month's triple-header of fixtures, Luis Enrique is expecting more teams to try to frustrate his side.

"Unfortunately this is the way it is going to be against Kosovo as well," he said. "We made a lot of changes today but were very lucid. 

"There are no small rivals, especially when they all lock themselves behind the ball. If you are not on top of your game then you will suffer."

Ramos was taken off at half-time against Greece and was an unused substitute on Sunday, but Luis Enrique reiterated that his skipper is not carrying an injury.

"He is fine," the former Barcelona boss said. "I know that whatever I decide with Ramos it is going to generate controversy and debate. I am prepared for any situation."

Torres' equaliser 11 minutes into the second half was his fourth in three appearances for Spain and paved the way for half-time substitute Olmo's long-range winner.

RB Leipzig midfielder Olmo credited Georgia for pushing his side all the way and insisted getting all three points was ultimately all that mattered.

"First, I must congratulate the whole team for getting the win," he said. "We needed this victory, so I'm very happy that it ended like this.

"It is difficult to explain how I'm feeling. It's unique. It is incredible and the support of the team when scoring and the emotion has been spectacular

"You have to speak well of Georgia - they played very well. They did us some damage on the counter-attack but we knew how to react.

"I think that everyone tries to play to their strengths. We are very clear about they way we play. Sometimes you can't win, like against Greece, but today we have been able to get all three points."

Spain have now earned four points from added-time goals in their 10 competitive matches since Luis Enrique returned, having previously battled back to earn Nations League draws against Germany and Switzerland.

La Roja are also the first team ever to score in 37 successive World Cup qualifying matches, breaking West Germany's record set between 1934 and 1985.

Gareth Southgate saw room for improvement from England as they coasted to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying defeat of Albania.

The Three Lions followed up their 5-0 drubbing of San Marino with another comfortable Group I win at the Air Albania Stadium on Sunday.

Captain Harry Kane ended a run of six games without a goal for his country with a first-half header and laid one on for Mason Mount after the break.

Kane and Phil Foden also struck the woodwork and Albania could not muster a shot on target in Tirana, where their run of four consecutive victories came to an end.

England boss Southgate was not impressed with the way his side finished a game they dominated ahead of a showdown with Poland at Wembley on Wednesday.

"It was a difficult pitch to move the ball on but we adapted well to that," Southgate told ITV Sport. "After about 25 minutes we just changed the shape of the midfield a little bit and we looked more dangerous.

"They had a different formation to the one they've played in the last 25 matches, so I thought we adapted well to that.

"We were comfortable for most of the second half. I just thought at the end of the game we had opportunities to make it three and should have killed the game off.

"I didn't like the way we managed the game in the last 15 minutes, charging forward when we didn't need to and a throw-in at the end that we nearly conceded a goal from.

"I'm pleased we can win but I thought there were areas we can certainly tighten up on."

Harry Kane set his sights on Poland after scoring one goal and creating another for Mason Mount in England's 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Albania.

Kane had gone six games without finding the back of the net for his country before opening the scoring with a first-half header at the Air Albania Stadium in Tirana on Sunday.

The Three Lions captain turned provider after the break, picking out Mount with a measured pass which the Chelsea midfielder controlled in an instant before dinking over goalkeeper Etrit Berisha and into the back of the net.

Kane and Phil Foden also struck the woodwork in a dominant display from Gareth Southgate's side, who have started their bid to qualify for next year's tournament in Qatar with straightforward victories over San Marino and now Albania.

A much bigger test is expected when England face Poland in Group I on Wednesday, but captain Kane says they will go into that showdown with great confidence.

The Tottenham striker told ITV Sport: "I thought it was a really good performance, maybe a bit slow at the start but we changed our formation and I think that helped.

"Sometimes you go through spells when things don't go your way, that is part of being a striker. You just have to stay focused and it was great to get three points.

"We need to keep working hard but we are in a good place. Poland will be the toughest game in the group but we are ready for that. If we can win that, that puts us in a great position."

England talisman Kane has now had a direct hand in 18 goals in his last 13 games at international level, scoring 11 and providing seven assists.

The 27-year-old's header ensured he has scored in each of his last seven away qualifying matches, the longest ever run by an England player.

Dani Olmo spared Spain's blushes with a 92nd-minute strike to earn his side a 2-1 comeback win over Georgia in Sunday's World Cup 2022 qualifier in Tbilisi.

Spain were held 1-1 by Greece in their Group B opener on Thursday and were heading for another shock result at the Boris Paichadze Dinamo Arena.

Khvicha Kvaratskhelia gave Georgia the lead just before the interval, but Ferran Torres equalised 11 minutes into the second period and half-time substitute Olmo scored a long-range goal in added time.

Georgia ended the game with 10 men after Levan Shengelia was sent off for a challenge on Pedri as Spain avoided an embarrassing result on their travels.

Harry Kane scored his first international goal in 16 months as England cruised to a 2-0 World Cup qualifying victory over Albania in Tirana.

Kane had not found the back of the net for his country since November 2019, but the captain opened the scoring with a first-half header at the Air Albania Stadium on Sunday.

The striker then set up Mason Mount to double England's lead in the second half as the Group I leaders made it two wins out of two following their 5-0 hammering of San Marino on Thursday.

Kane and Phil Foden struck the woodwork in a dominant display from Gareth Southgate's side, with Nick Pope becoming the first goalkeeper not to concede a goal in his first six England games as second-placed Albania failed to register a shot on target.

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