The March friendlies will be Gareth Southgate’s last opportunity to assess his players before naming his Euro 2020 squadEngland completed a successful qualifying campaign and secured a seeding for Euro 2020 with victory in Kosovo on Sunday – now manager Gareth Southgate’s plans will move into the next preparation phase.England will be among the favourites next summer, especially with all their group games at Wembley and the stadium also staging the semi-finals and final.Every squad place will be highly prized – but while some players have cemented their status, others are now on the margins with large question marks against their names.Southgate will be trying to detect all those vital signs as England prepare for two friendlies in March before Euro 2020.England stock has fallenKyle Walker
Walker’s disappearance off England’s radar has been one of the biggest selection decisions taken by Southgate during the course of this campaign.The 29-year-old Manchester City defender was a mainstay of England’s run to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, playing on the right side of three-man central defence, and started the Euro 2020 qualifiers at right-back before he was dropped for the home double-header against Bulgaria and Kosovo in September.Southgate has made all the traditional noises about Walker still having a part to play but with Kieran Trippier obviously preferred, Liverpool’s Trent Alexander-Arnold impressing and Manchester United youngster Aaron Wan-Bissaka waiting in the wings, it is increasingly difficult to work out when this experienced figure will add to his 48 caps.Michael Keane
Everton defender Keane made five starts in the qualifiers but performances of diminishing returns, coupled with poor Premier League form, has seen him dropped by both club and country.Keane, although scoring in Montenegro, gifted Kosovo a goal at St Mary’s and his poor display in defeat against the Czech Republic in Prague convinced Southgate to look elsewhere – once again it is hard to see how he will get back, especially as he has been ousted by Mason Holgate at Everton.Tyrone Mings and Fikayo Tomori are now ahead of Keane and John Stones is fit again – so it may be all over for the 26-year-old at this level.Eric Dier
Dier is another who played his part in Russia, memorably scoring the winning penalty in the last 16 shootout against Colombia, but has not figured since the Nations League third-place play-off against Switzerland in June – and looks unlikely to get back.Southgate, who already has Jordan Henderson, has better options in that key midfield area as England have become more ambitious, leaving Dier sidelined. Problems with injury and form means he is no longer a regular at Tottenham.West Ham’s Declan Rice has gone off the boil but is still in the squad ahead of him while Tottenham team-mate Harry Winks is now also re-established with England and a much more attractive option.Dier is another who it is hard to see being anywhere near next summer’s squad, having only played 17 minutes in qualifiers.Dele Alli
Alli was once the great midfield hope for England when he was also producing those touches of class and trademark goalscoring flourishes for Spurs.He is still only 23 and can definitely work his way back into contention, but after a relatively quiet World Cup and a lengthy spell of indifferent form Alli has a lot of work to do to regain Southgate’s favour with a place in his team.Chelsea’s Mason Mount has come into contention while Leicester City’s James Maddison is another whose development may block Alli’s return.Jesse Lingard
Lingard’s popularity grew as an England regular during the World Cup but a barren spell at Manchester United, where he is no longer a first choice, and the emergence of others means he is now very much on the outside looking in.He was fortunate Southgate kept faith so long as to include him in the September qualifiers at home to Bulgaria and Kosovo, given his poor form and lack of contribution when playing for United. Lingard withdrew through illness and shows no signs of making a return.England stock has risen Raheem Sterling
Raheem Sterling was, for some time, an unfulfilled figure with England – their run to the World Cup semi-final disguising his struggle to make a tangible contribution in Russia.Not any more. He is now world-class and arguably England’s most influential player, although he has learned a harsh lesson after he was dropped by Southgate following his confrontation with Liverpool’s Joe Gomez.Sterling, even in a quiet end to a turbulent week, helped to create goals for Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford in Kosovo.The key moment in his international career came when Sterling ended a three-year run without an England goal when he scored twice in the 3-2 win in Spain in October 2018.It released the full flow of his talent as he has torn defences apart during the qualifiers. Sterling can be one of the superstars of Euro 2020.Harry Kane
Kane won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup as leading scorer with six goals and yet he only got one from open play, and three came from penalties.He has grown in stature since as the complete striker and an England captain who leads by example, earning the total respect and confidence of his team-mates, as well as Southgate.Kane is also on course for history with his hat-trick against Montenegro and another goal in Kosovo taking him to 32 – surely on course to surpass Wayne Rooney’s all-time England record of 53 – at the age of 26 and in the prime of his career.On Sunday he equalled the highest tally in a calendar year for England with 12, going level with George Hilson in 1908 and Dixie Dean in 1927. He is England’s spearhead.Ben Chilwell
Leicester’s gifted 22-year-old left-back has made such rapid progress that he must now be rated ahead of Danny Rose and Manchester United’s Luke Shaw, who seems permanently troubled by injury, to be in England’s starting line-up next summer.Chilwell is flourishing under Brendan Rodgers and his attacking instincts and dead-ball abilities, allied to improving defensive work, make him an England star of the future. He demonstrated this with a hat-trick of first-half assists in the 7-0 win against Montenegro at Wembley.Still not the complete defender – but his obvious determination to improve means this is certain to be addressed.Harry Winks
Quietly effective and growing into Southgate’s plans. Impressive on the field and off, as proved when he sat alongside Southgate at the top table before England’s qualifier in Kosovo.And just to confirm his increasing stature, he provide a cool slide-rule finish for his first England goal in Pristina,The 23-year-old Spurs man is very much the modern midfielder, adept in all aspects of the game, excellent in possession and with an ability to pick a decisive pass. Staking a strong claim to start at Euro 2020.Jadon Sancho
The 19-year-old is having a difficult time at club level with Borussia Dortmund, where he was dropped and fined after being late back from England duty in October and then replaced only 36 minutes into the 4-0 loss against Bayern Munich – after carrying an injury into the game.Southgate, however, has no doubt about the youngster’s gifts – and just watch the scramble and huge fee likely to be paid when he makes his expected departure from Dortmund next summer.Sancho could form a thrilling front three with Kane and Sterling – although the presence of rejuvenated Marcus Rashford and another 19-year-old, Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi, underlines Southgate’s riches in this area.
Going for goal: Saudi Arabia kicks off first women’s football league
RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament. The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize. The…
RIYADH: First they opened the grandstands to women, now Saudi Arabia is encouraging them to cross the touchline and compete in the Kingdom’s first Women’s Football League tournament.
The historic competition kicks off on Tuesday morning, with 24 teams across Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam competing for a championship cup, and a $133,000 cash prize.
The Kingdom opened its stadiums to women football supporters in January, 2018, but this is the first time they will have been allowed to compete in a tournament.
The competition has been lauded as an important step for the Saudi sports world, with many in the game throwing their support behind the event.
Calling the competition a “positive step,” Abdullah Alyami, Saudi football coach and sports reporter, said he expects many more women to participate in future tournaments.
“This is a very happy day for all athletes, be they male or female. And based on what we’ve seen, and how beloved the sport of football is all over the Kingdom, I believe we will see many more of our sisters getting involved in professional sports,” he said.
عبدالله اليامي: انطلاق #الدوري_النسائي في #السعودية خطوة إيجابية.. وأتوقع إقبالا كبيرا على المشاركة في فرق كرة القدم النسائية#تواصل #قناة_الرسالة@m3sss3 pic.twitter.com/UxRa8pZSWo
— قناة الرسالة (@alresalahnet) November 17, 2020
Saudi sports reporter Riyan Al-Jidani tweeted his support.
“To all my dear sisters participating the Women’s Football League, your success in the tournament is a step in the right direction towards our dream of universality and representing our homeland to the outside world. Raising the flag on the field is a glory and pride,” he said.
The tournament was due to start in March – but the coronavirus pandemic stopped play.
But for some that just presented the opportunity to up their game.
“We started preparations early, and the delay due to the pandemic actually worked in our favor. We were able to take more than two months to prepare for the tournament,” Maram Al-Butairi, general manager and head coach at Dammam-based Eastern Flames FC.
Amal Gimie, 26, an Eritrean midfielder for Jeddah’s Kings United, previously told Arab News that she had been playing the beautiful game since she was eight.
“There was a match every weekend. The boys made us play as goalkeepers in the beginning, and in 2002, when I first saw the Women’s World Cup, it sparked my passion to learn more about this sport,” said Gimie, who is also a management information systems graduate. She joined her first female football team, Challenge, in Riyadh in 2014.
She said: “It was the first time I joined something organized. I was happy to be playing but at the same time I felt as though it was an unreachable goal (to become a professional athlete or join an official league), I felt like I was growing older without achieving anything.”
The matches won’t be broadcast, but Saudi’s army of football fans remain excited by the tournament.
Wejdan Al-Shammary, who grew up playing sports in school, said she would have tried for a team “in a heartbeat” if she had been just a few years younger.
“I played both basketball and football on my high school teams. I was a complete sports nut, but it makes me happy to know that even if it’s too late for me to achieve those dreams, there’s a chance now for young Saudi girls that I never had,” she said.
Najla Ahmed, a 16-year-old from Riyadh who plays on her school’s football team, said she would try for a local team in 2021.
“I’ll be 17, and therefore eligible, and I would love to see anyone try and stop me,” she said.
Both women said they hoped this was just the start and that more sports would be opened up to women.
“Football is just the beginning. I would love to see more focus on other sports, as well. Basketball, tennis, maybe even competitive swimming,” said Al-Shammary. “I’m sure we have so many potential Olympians among us who just need their talents nurtured.”
NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
Pliskova survives scare at French Open
Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world…
Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world – in a tie-break.The 2017 semi-finalist wrapped up a quick second set against the 24-year-old after winning four games in a row.Pliskova came through a tense decider to claim a 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 6-4 victory.”It was super tough,” she said. “Especially after losing the first set after having set points.”She played a great game, especially in these conditions.”Sherif kept up an impressive level throughout and the pair exchanged breaks at the start of the second set.But Pliskova then won four games in a row, eventually holding serve to level things.The Czech was made to work much harder for the final set as she failed to convert five break points before winning the sixth to go 4-3 up.She held serve and wrapped up the match after two hours and 15 minutes with an ace down the middle.Pliskova, who has never won a Grand Slam, will face Latvian world number 43 Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.Live scores, results and order of playAlerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone